Is Dave Nonis Still Calling The Shots For The Maple Leafs?


When Brendan Shanahan was brought to Toronto’s front office there began a change in thinking within the Maple Leafs organization that was much needed.

The often bottom-feeding possession team was in need of a new thought process and Brendan Shanahan was brought in as a guy who was willing to help move the team in that direction.

“Brendan Shanahan says he “polled the hockey world” to find out who the great up-and-coming minds are in hockey. Led him to Kyle Dubas.” – Chris Johnston via Twitter July 2014.

The offseason was one filled with questions early on about the status of Dave Nonis and Randy Carlyle and we all know how that turned out: they both remained on board. But is that the end of the evaluation for Sheriff Shanny? I doubt it.

Here’s a look at what Shanahan did in the offseason after he was brought into the organization.

Timeline Of Hiring/Firing’s

April 11th, 2014 – Brendan Shanahan hired as Toronto Maple Leafs President.


May 8th, 2014 – Randy Carlyle gets two year extension, Three assistant coaches fired.


July 11th, 2014 – Steve Spott and Peter Horachek hired as Randy Carlyle’s new assistant coaches.


July 22nd, 2014 – Kyle Dubas hired as assistant GM, Claude Loiselle and Dave Poulin fired.

What’s significant about each move is that Shanahan seems to have kept Nonis and Carlyle on as placeholders while he fills the organization with people of his choosing.

Take the Carlyle extension – and subsequent firing of his assistants – for example. It would have been a no-brainer to relieve Randy Carlyle from the head coaching position – but who would have replaced him?

Shanahan hadn’t been in the position long enough to search for his guy so he fired Carlyle’s help and brought in guys of his own picking with low risk to the team. Steve Spott, considered a good development coach and strong with younger players, was brought up from the Marlies.

Peter Horachek, a forward thinking coach who improved the Panthers possession after his interim hiring, was also brought on board. Look at the Panthers statistics after Horachek’s temporary hiring.

(Note: SAC – Score-Adjusted Corsi, SAF – Score-Adjusted Fenwick)

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Many thought that when Spott was brought up that he was the front-runner for the position when Carlyle was let go. After looking into Horachek I’m not sure that’s the case.

Nonis hired Spott, so it’s easy to assume his promotion to the Leafs was inevitable under Nonis at some point, but where did Horachek come from?

Horachek was pulled out of nowhere for the assistant position – so there was a motive behind the move – after an extended search for Carlyle’s new help. I think there’s more in play with the Horachek hiring; perhaps an audition via recommendation from the new President?

Back to Nonis.

Kyle Dubas wasn’t brought in to hold a clipboard. His knowledge of analytics and reputation among the NHL was well known – to which Shanahan referred to after the hiring.

“Brendan Shanahan says he “polled the hockey world” to find out who the great up-and-coming minds are in hockey. Led him to Kyle Dubas.” – Chris Johnston via Twitter July 2014.

More from Editor In Leaf

With that hire I’d say Dave Nonis’ fate was sealed, it then became a matter of when Nonis would be relieved as GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Fast forward to the regular season and the Leafs pick up Richard Panik off waivers. Why would the Leafs claim a guy that no one has really heard of so early in the season? That’s not very Nonis-like.

More current we now have Kyle Dubas doing the talking in the media, voicing the opinions of the front office and organization, instead of the usual Dave Nonis appearances.

It seems there may have been a gradual shift from the first day Brendan Shanahan was brought on. He made a minor shake-up nearly a month into his tenure before making calculated moves two months later.

Now we’re left with a team, much like the Panthers when Horachek came around, that is better with possession and an assistant GM who is speaking for the organization. Is Dave Nonis still calling the shots – many believed this scenario was happening before Burke was fired as well – or has Shanahan’s plan been fast-tracked?

The culture change that was talked about may be in full swing behind closed doors.