The Toronto Maple Leafs made it official on Friday: Brendan Shanahan is taking over the franchise.
Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment announced Friday that Hockey Hall of Fame member Brendan Shanahan has been appointed to the position of President and Alternate Governor of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The 45-year old native of Mimico, Ontario will begin his new role immediately and will be made available to media on Monday morning. The team will reserve comment until that time.
Shanahan joins the Maple Leafs to oversee all team operations for the 97-year old franchise after a 27-year NHL career as both a player and league executive. During his distinguished career, he earned three Stanley Cup Championships with the Detroit Red Wings as well as gold medals with Team Canada at the 1994 World Championships, the 2002 Winter Olympics and the 1991 Canada Cup. Shanahan was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on July 9, 2013.
How are Leafs fans taking the news?
With very, very, very cautious optimism.
From Pension Plan Puppets, one of the web’s most reliable producers of needles for Leafs’ optimistic balloons:
Make no mistake, this move is a gamble. While you can tease out reasons for optimism going forward, there are just as many blank spots on his resume to give one pause. Will his approach comprise a sincere evaluation of the entire organization along with a vigorous move towards addressing problem areas? Will he expand the base of the team's approach beyond making Colbert-like gut decisions? Or will he follow the path trodden by so many ex-pros and hold on to the concepts which are becoming increasingly extinct? Most importantly, will he ensure that the full financial heft of MLSE, an advantage unmatched in the NHL, is brought to bear upon the goal of winning a Stanley Cup?
Unfortunately, all we have now is our hope that things will break the right way. As Leafs fans, most of us have been conditioned to know that hoping for the best is not a strategy. However, as Leafs fans we also know that all we tend to have to hold on to is hope. Maybe this is the time that we will be rewarded.
It’s good news, I guess, in that I can’t see how it’s bad news. Shanahan appears to check off all the proverbial boxes - he certainly knows hockey, seems to understand the business side of the sports, and carries with him significant name recognition. That last part really isn’t all that important, but I imagine it was to MLSE boss hog Tim Leiweke.
According to the pundits, this move is designed to “change the culture” in the Leafs’ front office, but I’m skeptical as to how much of an affect it will have on the on-ice product. Roster management duties still fall on David Nonis and his band of merry assistants, but maybe Shanahan’s presence signals that failure won’t be tolerated for quite as long as it has previously been.
And hey, if that motivates Nonis to make a coaching change in the offseason, then Shanahan’s hiring might become immediately justified.
First off, what does this mean for General Manager Dave Nonis? If you believe Steve Simmons (something rarely advised, but this theory at least holds some water), he knew of the pending introduction of this role for some time while MLSE sought the right candidate to fill it. How exactly the chain of command is going to work is going to be interesting to watch unfold, if that’s the case. If not, will Shanahan be bringing in his own people? Is Nonis and/or some of his assistants are on the chopping block? Or is this window dressing, a figure head with a big name to throw into the front office mix?
What Shanahan doesn’t bring is front office experience for an NHL team, and he’ll be learning on the job in the most intense hockey market on the face of the Earth, at a time when it is at its toughest to work in.
Shanahan does bring league office connections, his revered Hall of Fame player reputation, and his knowledge of how a winning organization (Detroit) operates, at least from a player’s perspective. Could he be helpful in wooing potential free agent targets at a time when the Leafs – out of the playoffs again, with the Clarkson contract blowing up in their faces, player and team alike – are looking a rather undesirable destination again?
And finally, from Down Goes Brown:
From now on, Brendan Shanahan won't have to suspend anything besides his sense of hope.
— Down Goes Brown (@DownGoesBrown) April 10, 2014