Toronto Maple Leafs Face Many Difficult Decisions If They Don’t Win

Toronto Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan (Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports)
Toronto Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan (Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports) /

When Brendan Shanahan was hired as President of the Toronto Maple Leafs in April of 2014, it was done with high expectations and big budget. He took the reigns of a franchise struggling to play winning hockey and turned it around.

The change that was needed that brought a new boss to the Toronto Maple Leafs wasn’t just for organizational leadership. The team needed an entirely new philosophy on how to build a roster. This philosophy was even given a name before being put into action: The “Shanaplan.”

The year before Shanahan’s hiring, the Leafs finished 23rd overall in the NHL.

He was comfortable with losing then, and knew that the Leafs needed to get worse before they got better. That’s exactly what happened. In Shanny’s first season, Toronto dipped to 27th in the standings.

What will another playoff loss do to the Shanahan Era, aka the Shanaplan?

Toronto Maple Leafs Facing Difficult Decisions

The Leafs fell to dead last in 2015-16. All those losses, with some lucky ping pong balls, meant they were able to draft Auston Matthews as the first overall pick of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.

They were also able use their high draft picks to collect valuable talent such as William Nylander (drafted eight-overall in 2014) and Mitch Marner (drafted fourth-overall in 2015).

It hasn’t always been pretty but the Buds are now in the position the Shanahan has been aiming for. They have the talent and ability to win on any given night.

Matthews is an enormous factor in that regard. He has just a single season remaining on his contract beyond this one. With the potential of one of the franchise’s best goal scorers of all-time choosing to ending his run in Toronto, the Leafs need to capitalize on him being in their lineup.

The Leafs haven’t had any playoff success, and a lot of people think that this is the end of an era if they don’t win this year.  Still others point out the absurdity changing the organizational philosophy of “process > results” on the outcome of one single playoff series.

However you want to view it, the Shanaplan is in jeopardy.

What does Leafs ownership think? No on knows. You have to think they’d eventually tire of first round losses, but at the same time, if you put all of those losses in their proper context the Leafs don’t look too bad.

There’s no doubt that both Shanahan and Dubas want the Shanaplan to culminate in a Stanley Cup, but at the very least, the Leafs need to progress beyond just the opening round of the playoffs.

It may not be fair to base Dubas’ future on this year’s post season, and in fact it is absolutely dumb and senseless, but I don’t think anyone in the world actually believed the Leafs would run it back after last year’s loss to Tampa, so it’s hard to imagine they could lose again in the first round and retain Dubas.

This season could mark the conclusion of the Shanaplan one way or the other.

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Shanahan gave Toronto Maple Leafs fans hope when things were at their most dire. It allowed them to dream and visualize a brighter future. Well, that future is now and those same fans are hanging onto their hope that hockey illuminates the city of Toronto this spring. Soon, everyone will know whether it worked.