By HOWARD BERGER
TORONTO (Jan. 31) — Beneath the grim acknowledgement that another hockey season has withered away was a seminal column this week authored by prolific TSN storyteller Rick Westhead, outlining that Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment has chosen to hire a search firm in its quest to replace outgoing Chief Executive Officer Tim Leiweke.
Amid the angst of the Maple Leafs latest nosedive, Westhead’s discovery barely caused a ripple. Yet, it may have been the most relevant snippet of news in the five months since Leiweke announced his intention to leave the company that owns the Air Canada Centre; the Leafs, Raptors, Marlies and Toronto F.C. Any person remotely familiar with MLSE recognizes how unconventionally the Leafs have been administered in recent years. Levels of rank and position are allotted haphazardly and often in reverse order. Coaches are in place when general managers are hired; general managers are in place when presidents are hired and presidents are in place when CEO’s are hired.
It’s the latter affiliation that could be most compelling.
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS PRESIDENT BRENDAN SHANAHAN.
Apparently uncontested around here is that Brendan Shanahan has indefinite authority over all aspects of the hockey operation. The Maple Leafs will be de–constructed and re–constructed on his watch. Given the club’s implacable direction — it will conclude, tonight in Philadelphia, one of the gloomiest months in franchise history — a new general manager and coaching staff are almost certain to be in place for next season. That Shanahan has never built a hockey club at any level appears to be of tepid concern among fans of the Maple Leafs, probably because it’s a given that he’s the person in charge. What if, however, MLSE begins to favor a successor to Leiweke who isn’t comfortable with inexperience atop the hockey pyramid? Is inheriting Shanahan in his current role a condition of a new CEO’s employment and, if so, wouldn’t MLSE again be compromising functional executive framework?
These could all be rhetorical questions. There is no indication of any sort that Shanahan will not proceed as governor of the hockey wing nor should this be interpreted as an indictment of him. It must, however, be acknowledged that the ownership structure of MLSE is hardly common — divided, equally, among warring conglomerates Bell Canada Enterprises and Rogers Communications with the embodiment of neutrality, Larry Tanenbaum, hovering in–between. It would be pure folly to anticipate convention from this ungainly triumvirate. If MLSE becomes smitten with a dynamic personality that would insist (for argument’s sake) upon Lou Lamoriello being pursued to run the hockey operation, Shanahan’s position can hardly be cast in stone. Conversely, if MLSE is comfortable with its sports leadership and is seeking merely a financial administrator, then nothing is likely to change.
The situation does, however, merit scrutiny.
40 YEARS AGO THIS WEEK
As part of my intermittent review of pages–from–the–past, here are some contents from the Jan. 31, 1975 edition of THE HOCKEY NEWS:
JEAN–PAUL PARISE DIED OF LUNG CANCER ON JAN. 7, 2015.
THE NHL HAD 18 TEAMS IN 1974–75.
THE EXPANSION WASHINGTON CAPITALS OF 1974–75 (TOP–RIGHT) REMAIN THE WORST TEAM IN THE MODERN HISTORY OF THE NHL. THE CLUB FINISHED 8–67–5 FOR 21 POINTS AND YIELDED 446 GOALS, STILL A LEAGUE RECORD FOR MOST IN ONE SEASON.
NHL GAME SUMMARIES (ABOVE AND BELOW).
THE 14–TEAM WORLD HOCKEY ASSOCIATION WAS IN ITS THIRD SEASON.
WHA GAME SUMMARIES (ABOVE).
WAYNE DILLON — NOT “PILLON” — LED TORONTO TOROS IN SCORING (TOP–LEFT) WHILE BOBBY HULL WAS SHOOTING AT MORE THAN A GOAL–A–GAME CLIP FOR WINNIPEG JETS.
DAVE DUNN WAS A BIG, LUMBERING DEFENSEMAN OF EXTREMELY MODEST ABILITY ON A MEDIOCRE TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS TEAM IN 1974–75.
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