On the one hand I understand that Brendan Shanahan wanted to give his coach and General Manager “time” to make things work after he took over the reins of the hockey club a year or so ago. But on the other hand, I don’t.
Doesn’t it feel as though those decisions had, in truth, already been made from the day Shanahan was hired? Yet he insisted on playing out the charade. The prize, I guess, is a lottery pick. But the cost was allowing a coach and GM to stay where they were clearly not wanted (witness all their hand picked assistants being axed by Shanahan) and fans enduring a season that was unnecessarily excruciating.
Many Leaf fans hated Carlyle, yet the team spiraled far worse after his departure. At the first sign of mild duress this past season, Carlyle was fired. For his part, Nonis was seemingly left in a silo, knowing his days were numbered.
What a way to run a business. At least there seemed to be fewer of those often ill-timed pre-game ceremonies this past season. We didn't have to hear the excuse that the players were out of sorts before the games started.
Shanahan watched as the team crumbled. Do we even remember that winning streak back in November or whenever it was? I hate the very notion of “tanking” (players don’t tank; organizations may well try…) but you can’t help but feel that this is exactly what Shanahan wanted—a beyond terrible season, so he could have his scouts grab the low-hanging fruit and build with a superstar-in-waiting.
How can you make a mistake, eh, when you have your pick of the best available young players in the world? The next (currently in house?) GM will no doubt thank Shanahan for the coup the new guy will take credit for.
This all fine, except there was a lot of collateral damage to the psyche of the organization and an already emotionally fragile fan base. So much for pride, the Leaf legacy and all that stuff. It was acceptable to be terrible this season, and now they will be applauded for it, it seems.
It appears to be a foregone conclusion that Kessel and Phaneuf will be gone this summer. That may or may not trouble most fans. I’m unmoved either way at this point. Numb may be the better word. I’m trying to scratch my head figuring out who played with enough heart in the last two months of the season that they deserve to be here going forward. (This is not to say that a host of players won’t go elsewhere and prosper—they may well in a new environment. Surely any other place has to be better that what was happening here for the past twelve months as the organization drove itself yet again to irrelevance.)
Shanahan spoke on Monday. Well, I’ve heard all the pronouncements from on high before. We all have.
Maybe Mike Babcock will come in and save the day. But even that will trouble me. I’ve never liked having the sense that these things are pre-ordained. I mean, the guy is coaching a team in the playoffs right now. If he does in fact end up with the Leafs, I won’t be able to help but feel that he knew all along this is what he wanted as his next challenge, yet he was being paid millions to coach his current team, the Red Wings.
Fair on my part? I don’t know.
Consider me underwhelmed by all of this. Changing the GM? Most Leaf supporters had done that in their minds months ago. The coach? Sure. That’s a given when you finish 50th, or whatever.
Maybe Shanahan will prove to have a “plan”, a “vision”, a “blueprint for success”. We’ve heard those words before too. And now he has surrounded himself with analytics people. Hey, maybe that will solve everything.
I doubt it.
I posted here a couple of weeks ago that I have precious little to say about the current Leafs. I’ve never wanted to come across on this site as being unduly critical of the team. That’s too easy and it’s done just about everywhere. I have tried to hover here at VLM over the years between realistic and hopeful. But I have nothing left in the tank.
I guess there will be momentary excitement when the Leafs select an outstanding, game changing player in June at the draft. But right now, I feel zero excitement and no sense that the future feels bright.
And for me, as of right now, Shanahan is part of the problem. The honeymoon is over. As we keep hearing, this is a results-oriented business. And the results under his watch were lousy.
He may prove me wrong. But it will take a long time—and more than a new coach, a few new players and a some regular-season victories— to convince me that he is the guy to make things right.
By all means share your thoughts, good, bad or indifferent. But for now, I'm indifferent- just like the team was.