The Leafs Need Some Courage

TORONTO (June 9) — Someone in the ever–evolving managerial structure of the Maple Leafs needs to grow a set. Very quickly. Whether it’s general manager Brad Treliving; his newly named assistant, Shane Doan, or a person above the fray in ownership, an individual with clout absolutely must have the gonads to inform Brendan Shanahan that his existing blueprint cannot work. To wit: If the nucleus of centers and wingers that performs wonderfully in the regular season and faintheartedly in the playoffs — the so–called (and, now, somewhat nauseating) Core–4 — remains untouched through contract extensions, the Maple Leafs are doomed for another decade.

Amid the veil of silence that has enveloped the club since Treliving came aboard last week, there is no indication that anything will change. Such veteran members of the media as Toronto Sun hockey writer Terry Koshan are calling for the same forwards, the same goalies and the same coach. Therefore, and unavoidably, the same result.

Until someone, somewhere, has the fortitude to step up and exclaim that the Leafs must be altered, fundamentally, it’ll be rinse and repeat for the torch–bearers of Stanley Cup famine. Picture John Tavares, William Nylander, Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews packed tightly in the center with all others circling them in paralysis — ownership, management and media utterly petrified to dabble with the wondrous foursome gazing out from the middle; these overpaid, underwhelming athletes having all–but dared the franchise to make a bold move with their indifference and incapacity in the playoffs. Not over one or two years. But, in a remarkable seven failed attempts to pose a Stanley Cup challenge. Now, the heroic bastions of Leafdom are calling for an eighth chance. And, a ninth, tenth, eleventh, twelfth… the number doesn’t matter anymore. Not if the feeble, insufficient band stays together.

The hiring of Doan became official this morning.


Heaven help the Leafs and their fans if one of the most–widely respected figures in the game has come aboard as a pigeon for Matthews. It took 15 minutes for club shill Luke Fox to post, on Sportsnet: HOW SHANE DOAN CAN HELP MAPLE LEAFS SIGN AUSTON MATTHEWS. Presumably, Doan would not have left the only National Hockey League franchise for which he has worked (the original Winnipeg Jets, now Arizona Coyotes) under such a feeble mandate. But, with the Shanahan Maple Leafs, you never know. Matthews scored 60 goals a couple of years ago, providing him, evidently, carte blanche as it pertains to his not–so–immediate future. Kyle Dubas mentioned, during his fateful last media gathering in Toronto, that the precious Core–4 might finally require a facelift. Two days later, he was gone. Much quicker, in fact, than the Blue Jays — playing the fool for everyone to see — got rid of pitcher Anthony Bass and his anti–LGBTQ rhetoric. Veteran Leafs scribe Kevin McGran of the Toronto Star wrote, Friday, that Matthews is “largely irreplaceable.” That’s true. It’s hard to find an elite, No. 1 center that contributes zero goals in a playoff series, as did Invisible Auston against Florida. A lack of drive when the bounty increases hasn’t altered Matthews’ God–like countenance in this city. Which indicates that nothing ever will. 

Unless Treliving and Doan have the moxie and mettle to stand up to Shanahan.

We are three weeks away from Matthews assuming full control of not only his future, but that of the entire club. Ownership and management, by all appearances, is allowing “Mr. November” to set the marching orders. With his grandiose one round of playoff triumph in seven years. Adding to the confusion was a comment, this week, by Elliotte Friedman that suggested the Leafs are looking to “de–emphasize” the Core–4. How? By hiring Auston’s “boyhood idol” as a special advisor to the new GM? Why not go “all in” and retain Justin Bieber as road caddy?

The entire Maple Leafs operation, supported unanimously by the docile and submissive media, revolves around catering to No. 34; to making him feel essential. The hell with his lousy and untimely 44 points in 50 playoff games. Nowhere on the planet could the Maple Leafs find an alternate No. 1 center. It’s Auston… or bust.

If Treliving and Doan are mere figureheads, nodding up and down with every one of the Teflon president’s ideas, there is no hope for the Leafs to overcome their playoff bugaboo. Until the club hires someone with backbone — and, who knows, maybe Doan will help tip the scale — it’ll be more of the same. It has been proven, beyond doubt, that the Leafs will not change is any significant manner with Tavares, Nylander, Marner and Matthews as nucleus of the squad. Tavares is locked in for two more years. Trading Nylander would amount to change for the sake of change. Unloading the multi–gifted Marner would be one of the biggest blunders in franchise history.

The smart, tough move, therefore, would be to send “Mr. November” elsewhere before July 1, when he begins to hold all the cards. But, the Leafs would need courage, faith and initiative in order to flip the script. Elements the franchise has lacked while turning a blind eye to the post–season frailty of the “Corpse–4.” Until there’s a change of mood and direction, the bruising of hockey’s most–resilient fan base will continue. Indefinitely and unabated.


18 comments on “The Leafs Need Some Courage

  1. If the Leafs were to offer Mathews and Marner for Conner McDavid + Cap space … I presume that Edmonton turns that down pretty quickly, yes?

  2. Howie. Based on observation only I believe Matthews is damaged goods. He was taking strides in his physical game a few years ago but it’s gone now.

    He had a back injury as a 19 year old and we have seen him hobbled several times by cross checks to the back. Add to that the serious wrist injury now.

    He does not want to risk further injury and now plays an entirely perimeter game hovering around the front of the net waiting to unleash his shot. He’s been figured out by the opposition, particularly in the playoffs.

    He’s still capable of scoring 40+ goals this way but thats not a player that should be making highest salary in the league. And certainly not your team leader.

    Trade him now while he is still riding the reputation of the 60 goal season and MVP.

  3. Over supper tonight I told my wife I couldn’t believe Pittsburg gave Dubas a seven year contract after he did nothing on the Leafs for five years. He wasted all the draft picks and prospects on rentals and the Leafs were in a lot worse shape than when he started. So he get rewarded for doing nothing. She said at least at least he signed Tavares. I told her they needed defense and could have got two solid defence men with the money Tavares gets. She said well at least he made a little boys dream come true.

  4. Matthews is a great entry level contract player. Beyond that, contracts med to be based on the skills, attitude and perseverance needed for playoff success (ie. Tkachuk, Bergeron, Toews, Marchand, etc. The % of cap eaten by Matthews over the last 4 years (on his current contract) is obscene and forced the team to rely on 40 year old defence man playing first pair
    minutes and college goalies to sign bright young prospects. Cannot believe that any experienced management person would not take this opportunity to extract themselves from this worsening meds going forward. The board and Shanny carry about holding onto short term fan emotions to keep the cash box full. Montreal know when to trade P.K. Subban in spite having a major fan appeal and personality and even a large local contributor. Matthews has none of that.

  5. HB, this is the truth in spades, someone has to step in, step up, swing the bat and make the move. Sadly, that won’t happen anytime soon if one is to accurately decipher the Morse Code coming from MLSE. First, Shanny ain’t going anywhere (an absolute travesty). He’s indicated that he’s got the the “Corpse 4” on speed dial and has assured all not to worry, they won’t have to fret about being banged, bruised or stitched up for any future sickening TV commercials. Second, it sure looks like Shane Doan has been hired to help get the next Matthews deal done. Why does Brad Treliving need a “Special Adviser”? Doan is there there for one reason – as an “idol” buffer to keep Matthews happy. It sure looks like the Leafs are doubling down on Matthews. Bruce Arthur put forward today that Doan should convince Matthews to take less for the betterment of the team, like Crosby, McDavid and McKinnon have done. I just can’t see Matthews taking that bait in order to help the team. He’s “me first” like the other three. Likely scenario will be an announcement in the next week or so of another Matthews “bridge deal”. That’s a shame because addition by subtraction (moving Matthews), providing the right partner is available and the right move(s) are made in the transaction, could put the Leafs in a much better position immediately to succeed come playoff time. The way it looks from this perspective is the log jam only starts to break once Tavares’ contract is up in two years. Seems the only band Shanny and Company listen to apparently is “Status Quo”.

  6. Matthews is not an elite player. If he was, he would show-up in the playoffs. He doesn’t. Trade him and keep Marner and Nylander.

  7. I entirely agree. I would add that, at present, the Leafs simply do not have enough on ice and futures assets to get there (the Cup) from here, no matter how the team is reconfigured. Further, too much of our prospect and draft capital has been squandered under Dubas and Shanahan to give me any hope for the next several years. After a lifetime of being a Leafs fan (I’m in my mid-60s), I’ve decided I just cannot take it anymore. After careful thought, I’m choosing to switch my allegiance to the Sabres. They have a bright future, are close by and don’t cost a fortune to see live.

      1. ain’t that the truth…I’ve tried….it’s an addiction, and now my young son has the disease…terminal affliction……the only record this team has it’s sights on, is breaking the all time record for futility held by the Cubbies at 112 years between championships…good news…we are already just over half way there…I say they do it!!!

  8. The Leafs are doomed if they sign Matthews. He will ask for a large sum and hold control over the team for years to come. They need to unload him and re-tool the team with guys that will grind in the post season. He doesn’t score in the playoffs during elimination games and is soft as butter. Why can’t the rest of Leafs nation see it? Oh yeah, they’re blinded by his 60 goal season and we “can’t give up on a franchise center”. Cry me a river.

    1. All one has to do, and the Leafs Corpse-4 should be forced to do it, is watch the Stanley Cup semi-finals and finals. It becomes quickly evident that these 4 are substandard and could not handle it at all.

  9. Doan’s a great guy, but he hasn’t won anything.

    Your suggestion of going after Gretz and Messier would been a much better fit. Messier longs to be the coach/gm of the Rangers. If he could bring Toronto a championship they’d be begging for him in NY.

    1. What is Messier’s record as a NHL GM or NHL coach? How about he puts in his dues as an assistant for some years and see how he does?

        1. lol

          no way Mess can be an assistant. Paired with Brandon Pridham he’d be awesome as a GM.

          Mess likes old-school hockey …. just like how the Panthers are playing it. Most people have forgotten that Mess won the cup 2 X more than Gretz. I don’t think he won then accidently.

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