TORONTO (Nov. 1) — Apologists for the Toronto Maple Leafs, of which there are still too many, tend to skirt legitimate matters by referencing that the club had the same record (4–4–2) after ten games last season, only to amass a franchise–best 115 points. To which I respond, “Who cares?” It matters not to me whether the Leafs go 72–0–0 in the remainder of this regular schedule… and then flop in the first round of the playoffs; a stone–clad guarantee with the current roster. It is time to look big picture as it pertains to the management duo of Brendan Shanahan and Kyle Dubas. Which, of course, is rather unsightly for the apologists, given the National Hockey League record of six consecutive ousters in the opening length of Stanley Cup toil. The excuse makers want us to peg away at regular–season gaiety and the likelihood the Leafs will again finish in the top–third of the NHL.
But, the current hierarchy no longer deserves that sort of mulligan.
The full scope of its work paints the picture of a flawed team that is gifted enough to excel between October and April, but without the guts and determination to raise performance when it matters. Why should this season be any different? Particularly when Shanahan and Dubas have created and endorsed a culture in which the inmates are running the asylum. Were those inmates in possession of fertile Stanley Cup resumes, perhaps it would be mildly excusable. But, when Mitch Marner is benched for one shift — ONE SHIFT!! — thereby creating an international incident, you know this club, as currently pieced together, has no hope. Marner throws a conniption between the benches in Anaheim and full–length, feature stories are dedicated to the peril of such heartless discipline from Sheldon Keefe. Good God! Had Marner performed as he did against the Ducks and gone postal on the late Pat Burns, he’d be sitting in the press box for the next three games. Instead, we have such veteran Leaf reporters as Jonas Siegel and Luke Fox wondering how Keefe could pull such a dastardly move on a member of the adored nucleus — again, a core that cannot win a playoff round — and how that will impact the head coach’s future.
Either Siegel and Fox are frightfully bored, or they cannot bring themselves to conceive of Marner, Auston Matthews and William Nylander drawing, when warranted, even a mild rebuke. Such is life around a hockey club that unjustly follows the beat of those who have never prevailed in the clutch — with the full blessing of the president and general manager. Which is the most–palpable excuse for Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment to show Shanahan and Dubas the door in favor of an approach that might actually be productive and professional.
From this chair, a poisonous culture has festered with the Blue and White. Getting rid of the handpicked — and, now, clearly henpecked — coach will only allow for the malady to metastasize. Can you imagine a widely respected individual like Barry Trotz agreeing to guide the Leafs amid such baseless criteria? When questioned about Marner’s absurd tantrum, Keefe replied, “I had no issue with it. Guys have to have outlets.” As if there was any other choice. Given the noxious environment created by the two poobahs, Keefe would have been summoned upstairs for a butt–whipping had be talked the truth. It really has become farcical in the Maple Leafs’ lair.
When the club coughed up a two–goal lead to complete its disastrous road trip and the traveling media wished a word from Dubas, the GM begged off. Hardly a surprise. Silence is golden when answers do not abound.
The roster and salary cap issues, alone, are sufficient for MLSE to seek new direction at the top. The culture makes it a no–brainer. While Dubas and Keefe have absorbed their share of gut–punches from the media, it’s been largely “hands off” for Shanahan. As if it is sacrilegious to scrutinize the man that has put the entire scheme — and all its components — into place. With not a smidgen of playoff prosperity in nearly a decade. Why the local media bows at Shanahan’s feet is an abiding mystery. Yes, he’s done a few good deeds; nurturing franchise legend Dave Keon chief among them and finally retiring (rather than “honoring”) the jersey numbers of clutch performers from the past. But, Shanahan’s record while running the Leafs, if you consider challenging for a title the least–bit important, is terrible. He’s been allocated more than enough time in the big chair. As I’ve written many times, however, Toronto is the easiest NHL city in which to fail on a regular basis. C’est la vie. Rinse and repeat.
I wonder if Mr Shanahan remembers the D Men and Goalies he had on those Red Wing years, and how vital they were when winning three rings..If he does, it must really bother him when he looks at his roster,
Howard, the only thing wrong with this article, is that the only person who has the guts to write something like this, which is you, has been away from the team and local media, for almost a decade, where are all the beat guys, the so called “tough Toronto media” who, apart from Kevin McGran and Steve Simmons, seem to be more worried about their credentials being revoked than they are about offering an honest evaluation of this organization. This, sadly, has the makings of the 18 wheeler and the titanic falling off the cliff
It’s a different media era now from when I covered the team. I don’t believe I’m doing anything in print today that I didn’t do in radio back then.
MLSE, Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment is a paradox. It offers mediocre Sports and sporadic Entertainment. The performance of this regime and players is marginally better than the shenanigans of Nonis/Phaneuf/Kessel. Clearly this Leafs team on ice lacks leadership and the hunger to win. They need a leader like Gilmour or Clark who had balls of steel. The Leafs management has always been a sub-par “Old Boys” club. Failure, excuses, cover up and repeat.
The one thing Dubas can’t see, with his analytical approach, is ‘heart’. There is no heart on this team. He had some in Zach Hyman and even Connor Brown before that. Those are the players that go to war for you. There’s just no fight on the Leafs.
Which brings me to another point. I can’t believe, after watching Shanahan’s career, a career that saw him put up 656 goals and over 1300 penalty minutes, he could have such a collections of softies. He won three Stanley Cups playing a hard, take no prisoners style of hockey, and this is the team he ices? A shame.
Shanahan should be ashamed of himself. Such a fierce competitor as a player, but such a meek president allowing a soft, heartless team without any hint of fierceness to be assembled and kept intact year after year.
I wonder how he sleeps at night?
On the one hand it’s good to see the Leaf-supporting media grudgingly acknowledge what “we” have been aware of for several years – that the lack of cap space brought on by paying superstar salaries to too many (mostly) unproven or unaccomplished but obviously skilled players does adversely impact overall team construction. The notion that winning in the playoffs is SOLELY determined by the play of the anointed star players is beyond dead and now decomposed.
On the other hand the whole, “it’s early” excuse is tiring. Yes this season is only 10% done, and there is a better chance they make the playoffs than not but the start to this season has exposed issues that have been a constant with this group and shop no signs of being excised. A nonchalant approach, or not starting on time, so-called star players who stay on the perimeter, a COMPLETE lack of physicality, a defence that can’t defend and an overall sense of entitlement that comes across through the constant talk of how confident they are, their “swagger” and the overall dismissive attitude.
I hope they don’t fire Keefe. He is only playing the crappy cards he’s been dealt. As for trades, there’s no potential trading partners for any of the big contracts so there’s no realistic way to upgrade the deficiencies.
Dubas, with the unfailing support of Shanahan created this mess and shows no indication that he’s inclined to nor capable of correcting it.
I was born in 1972 so I’ve lived through the insanity of the Ballard years, the penny pinching of Steve Stavro and the greed and apathy of the Teacher’s Pension Plan but the Rogers-Bell-Tanenbaum triple headed Hydra has been the biggest sham of them all. The Maple Leafs are now the most valuable NHL property and MLSE is content to watch their collect investment streak towards the Heavens in value as the product diminishes into utter calamity.
I still say the coach is going to be fired but while the Leafs are jockeying for Bedard, Keefe ought to make a few changes.
I would prefer Marner to play with Tavares. Keefe should use one of his players to park in front of the opposing goal and tap in rebounds. I love Simmonds – the role would be perfect for him, and he could score 30+ goals. It’s akin to the big chair at the Mandarin all-you-can-eat-Buffet.
Toronto should be keeping an open position for callups. Keep them hungry, and ornery in the minors and dangle that reward.
Yes, Simmonds could score 30-plus goals. Ten years ago.
Toronto just needs a guy willing to take some abuse in front of the net. Hyman scored a beauty tap-in (side of net) last year in the playoffs that brought tears to my eyes. I recall thinking that Hyman was going to an even better player going forward. Parking a big rear end in front of the net for deflections, blinding the goalie, ticking off the goalie, tap-ins, rebounds never hurt anyone. Andreychuk and Ciccarelli both made HOF because of buckets of goals scored in tight.
I’m happy Toronto won tonight but it changes nothing in my assessment that the team needs a new coach and a new system. They lack a skilled defender who can advance the puck, and they lack a punishing defenseman who pushes the opposing players off their game. There doesn’t appear to be a team willing to trade with Toronto (at the moment) and their lack of development at the Marlies level is a total disaster (trumpism).
Shanahan is a GHOST! Maybe he doesn’t even know how bad they actually are. Listening to First Up on TSN on Monday Carlo Colaiacovo suggested at the very least Dubas should’ve put one player on waivers. His wording was “break someone’s heart”. Wouldn’t change much but would at least show there are consequences of some sort.
Truer words have never been written.
Dubas & Shanahan must accept
responsibility for five years of futility.
Time for MLSE to skate away from this failed experiment.
It’s hard to believe that ownership allows Shanahan and the Leafs to have no accountability, especially since the Raptors are the complete opposite. Didn’t Nick Nurse have a conversation with Pascal Siakam and fine him? Isn’t Siakam a star?