Toronto Maple Leafs: Why A Collective Front Office Is Right


The Toronto Maple Leafs have a level front office that intends on working together to find a solution, rather than have one person choose the lone path.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have been gathering smart hockey minds since Brendan Shanahan arrived and the major pieces are in place. It’s up to that core front office group – Mark Hunter, Kyle Dubas and Shanahan – to scour the world for talent.

The development of that talent – and proper use at the minor league level – rests on Sheldon Keefe. The continued growth of those players – and proper use at the pro level – lies in the hands of Mike Babcock.

It’s player usage that makes Babcock the crown jewel.

Take Teemu Pulkkinen, for example, from the 2014-2015 season.

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Pulkkinen is a 23 year old player that was drafted 111th overall and went through the Wings system in the AHL before stepping into Detroit. When he was used this year in Detroit, with Babcock, he was put in a position to exceed. There were no excess expectations, nor was there a place that Pulkkinen “should have been playing”.

There was his role that he was given – and he out-performed that role to the tune of a +8.96 dCorsi60 (measuring over/under performance in a player’s given role). He was drafted for a reason: his skills fit the system in some capacity. The best player available will be different, more often than not, for each team on their draft boards. The best player available at 111th in the fourth round of the 2010 draft, in Detroit’s mind and with how they operate, was Pulkkinen.

He wasn’t thrown to the wolves and now his gradual development path suggests that, maybe, he’s ready for an increased role next year for Jeff Blashill.

That’s the slow process that the Toronto Maple Leafs are embarking on. The true value of the young players Toronto selects in a few weeks, and the ones they signed over the last few months, won’t be fully apparent for a few years. The same can be said for Babcock.

For the Leafs, one look at Dion Phaneuf‘s role performance numbers and you can see he’s clearly not being used in the right role as a top pairing defender.

As much as everyone wants him to be a #1 or a #2 defender he just isn’t. He’s more suited to be a very good #3 or #4 – and the same look at the role performance can take you down that road of thought as well.

That’s where the real value is in a player. Finding the right role within the system that’s been put in place.

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If the Toronto Maple Leafs draft Mitchell Marner – just as an example – and he turns out to produce as second line winger instead of a first line winger then he’ll play on the second line. Mike Babcock isn’t going to be influenced by the location of where Marner was drafted. Value.

It’s not Babcock’s job to find himself players – though he’ll obviously be consulted – but it’s his job to utilize what’s been given to him, and it’s Keefe’s job to ready the kids for a Mike Babcock team. It’s Mark Hunter and Kyle Dubas’ job to stick to the plan and seek players that fit what Toronto is going to do moving forward.

As a collective group, the Leafs and Marlies management team and coaching staff’s have to work in concert with each other to get the most of the players they are going to make Toronto Maple Leafs over the next five years.

If they do that, like it seems they will, there will be brighter days ahead for the Toronto Maple Leafs fans. It’s no longer a my-way-or-the-highway front office. There isn’t one single person looking to book their builder ticket to the Hockey Hall of Fame by bringing a Stanley Cup to Toronto.

The good teams insulate themselves with as many smart hockey people as they can – Toronto’s just the most public about sharing the credit around.

There’s an ever-growing collection of smart hockey people that want to get the job done together – because they all know that’s what it takes, and they can all keep each other sheltered from the pressure of being in Toronto.

Next: Leafs News: Shanahan Talks Front Office

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