Toronto Maple Leafs: What is Brendan Shanahan Thinking?

DALLAS, TX - JUNE 23: (l-r) Kyle Dubas and Brendan Shanahan of the Toronto Maple Leafs handle the draft table during the 2018 NHL Draft at American Airlines Center on June 23, 2018 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - JUNE 23: (l-r) Kyle Dubas and Brendan Shanahan of the Toronto Maple Leafs handle the draft table during the 2018 NHL Draft at American Airlines Center on June 23, 2018 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /
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The Toronto Maple Leafs may look very different once the summer comes to an end.

Kyle Dubas said in his season-ending press conference that, “Shanny has to decide on me first, and the evaluation of me,”. Is Brendan Shanahan really doing that, though? I doubt it. While I’m sure he’s thinking long and hard about this last season and what went ‘right’ and what went ‘wrong’, I can almost guarantee that Dubas is staying.

One interesting thing is, he might think the team is going in the right direction even though the team lost a second-straight round-one playoff series against the Boston Bruins. Last year, when Shanahan introduced Dubas as the GM, he spoke about how difficult it is to get the team on another level.

“It’s certainly a challenge to become a good team,” says Shanahan, “And then if you want to take that next step to be a great team, it’s even harder.”

Of course, the jump is hard. But, aren’t the Leafs already a ‘great team’? To start the season, analysts, fans, and some ex-players said that this team is a Stanley Cup Contender, which they are. With the likes of Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Mitch Marner (who may or may not be with the team next season), William Nylander, Morgan Rielly, and even, Frederik Andersen, this team should have no struggle getting through the playoffs.

You could say the same thing about the Lightning. And yet, unfortunately, and surprisingly, both teams went out in the first round. Shanahan knows this team is good. But does he think the team is ‘great’? Well, that’s what he’s evaluating right now.

He’ll evaluate Dubas first, then he and Dubas will evaluate the coaching staff and the rest of the team.

It’s Not going to Get Easier From There

Another thing Shannahan spoke about in the press conference to introduce Dubas was that when you’re a ‘great team’, everything is a lot harder.

“As you get closer to being the best, I think it takes more time, the decisions become more difficult and there’s more on the line.”

So, obviously the decisions are a lot harder. For example, if he was to fire Mike Babcock tomorrow, there aren’t many coaches out there who are as good as him to hire. It’s a big decision and like Shanahan said, ‘it becomes more difficult’.

Babcock has a remarkable 328-164-123 in the regular season. But at this point for the team, it’s not about the regular season success. In the playoffs, his record is pretty different, sitting at 8-11-1 some people might say it’s a small sample size, some might not. Babcock has had 3 tries at getting through the 1st round and although I think he’s safe for now, Shanahan may have seen enough.

Shanahan is wise and he always likes to have a plan in place. For instance, the plan to have Lou Lamoriello as the GM for 3 years and then move him to an executive role with the team and bring in a new GM. But, he also doesn’t shy away from going off the tracks a little bit.

“When the time comes, I don’t think you rely on old judgements, but you reassess and make a decision at that moment,” Shanahan said when being asked about the decision to hire Dubas after letting Lamoriello go.

This shows that even he thinks Babcock is the ‘right’ coach for this team and Dubas doesn’t, he might trust Dubas’ judgement and make a difficult decision. But, at the end of the day, Shanahan is thinking long and hard about the decisions this offseason, and they’re going to be tough. But, he did say when starting the rebuild that there would be pain, and there still is when the Leafs go out in the first round, two straight years in a row.

And, even with the Marner contract talks, there could be pain there too if it doesn’t get worked out. And, if Mike Babcock goes, there will be pain for some people. But, at the end of the day, whatever decision is made, I’m sure it’ll help the team and steer them in the right direction to a possible Stanley Cup in the years to come.

Next. Four Reasons Why Nylander Won't be Traded. dark

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