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John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Toronto Maple Leafs News & Notes: April 15, 2014

Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle held his end-of-season press conference today at the Air Canada Centre, where he touched on a variety of topics. After their late-season tailspin, Carlyle still seems to be having trouble figuring out what went wrong with the team, and more importantly, how to fix it. You can watch the full conference here, via TSN.

It was revealed during Toronto Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan’s introductory press conference yesterday that he would ultimately have final say in all hockey decisions. That left us all with the obvious question: “Does general manager Dave Nonis have any power any more?”

Cathal Kelly of The Globe and Mail thinks the writing is on the wall for Nonis and the addition of Shanahan means MLSE president and CEO Tim Leiweke is playing the role of the prophet Daniel to Nonis’ King Belshazzar, and he’s been found wanting.

In yesterday’s presser, Leiweke made frequent comparisons of the Toronto Maple Leafs to the two other main franchises owned by MLSE, Toronto FC and the Toronto Raptors. TFC was a bottom-feeder Major League Soccer club for their entire existence until Leiweke arrived and was able to attract two of the best players in the league to the club, Jermain Defoe and Michael Bradley.

The Raptors were destined for another mediocre season until Leiweke fired general manager Bryan Colangelo and replaced him with noted smart guy Masai Ujiri. Ujiri traded away Rudy Gay and his massive contract for four players from the Sacramento Kings and suddenly the Raptors went on a surge. They won their 48th game of the season last night, a new franchise record.

But before people start thinking the Leafs are about to suddenly turn into a powerhouse overnight like the Raptors and TFC did, they’re under a much different set of circumstances. The Raptors’ run can be considered a fluke, as the Gay trade was a precursor to a total rebuild, and Ujiri almost ended up trading Kyle Lowry, one of the Raptors’ best players, for a first-round pick to the New York Knicks.

TFC, on the other hand, were able to give huge sums of money to Bradley and Defoe because of a loophole that allows teams to sign three players to contracts that don’t affect the salary cap. There is no such rule under the NHL’s collectively bargained agreement.

So, as Michael Grange of Sportsnet writes, the Toronto Maple Leafs need to be extremely patient, even if everybody at MLSE seems to think “rebuild” is a dirty word.

With the Leafs’ season over, there are still plenty of questions and storylines surrounding this team. Anthony Petrielli takes a closer look at a few in his weekly Leafs Notebook piece for Maple Leafs Hot Stove.

Rumours will continue to swirl around the future of Carlyle until Shanahan or Nonis publicly come out and say he’s their guy, or hand him his pink slip. Former Nashville Predators bench boss Barry Trotz would likely be a top candidate to fill any vacant coaching position around the league this offseason, and that includes the Leafs if they decide to fire Carlyle. As Pierre LeBrun of ESPN found out, that interest will be reciprocal.

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Tags: Brendan Shanahan Dave Nonis Randy Carlyle Tim Leiweke Toronto Maple Leafs

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