The Toronto Maple Leafs held a press conference this morning formally introducing Brendan Shanahan as president and alternate governor. Shanahan’s role will be to oversee the entire organization, not just the hockey side.
Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment president and chief executive officer Tim Leiweke and Leafs general manager and senior vice-president Dave Nonis flanked Shanahan as they all made remarks and answered questions from the media during the conference, which lasted about 50 minutes. You can watch the entire conference in nine parts on the Leafs’ website.
Shanahan frequently spoke about the need to change the culture of the hockey team, and that winning will only come from hard work, not by making any fancy speeches. He also declined to make any specific comments in critiquing the team, saying he and Nonis would need to take some time to “step back” and evaluate every aspect of the Leafs.
Nonis spoke about the team’s need to add depth, as well as draft and develop prospects better. He said he would ultimately answer to Shanahan for all hockey decisions.
Shanahan had an interesting answer to a question from Bruce Arthur of the National Post about whether or not he would look into the field of hockey analytics to try to improve the team. Shanahan said if they didn’t use every piece of information available to evaluate players, they would be doing this team a disservice.
Shanahan’s answer is what many fans have said about the Leafs in regards to analytics ad nauseum over the past few years. Nonis has said the team has a specific budget for analytics, but usually doesn’t use it. Vice-president of hockey operations and Toronto Marlies general manager Dave Poulin said on the radio a couple of weeks ago that the analytics talk “doesn’t make a lot of sense”.
If Shanahan is truly willing to search for better ways to improve the hockey club, he can start by spending that analytics budget. And if he does, his philosophy would seem to run counter to everything this management group has been preaching since they were first assembled under Brian Burke in 2009 and ‘10.
Shanahan will be patient in making decisions with this group moving forward, but he strikes me as a no-nonsense guy who is willing to make the changes necessary to get this team where it needs to be. He said in an interview with James Duthie on TSN that most of “his guys” (Rob Blake, Stephane Quintal, Brian Leetch) are already under employment with the NHL and members of the Leafs front office don’t have to worry about losing their jobs. We’ll see.
My personal feeling is it won’t take Shanahan long to start leaving his imprints on this team. Those imprints should materialize in the coming weeks, and all the more as we move closer to the draft in late-June and the beginning of free agency in July.