Always The Easiest Path For MLSE

TORONTO (May 9) — It should come as no surprise that Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment appears to be following the path of least resistance. Again. Rather than starting from scratch and building a new hockey department, the Leafs, today, made Sheldon Keefe the lone scapegoat. Which indicates that Brendan Shanahan will either complete the final year of his current pact as president of the team… or that new Chief Executive Officer Keith Pelley will announce, on Friday, a long–term extension for the Hall–of–Fame forward that has but a single playoff–round triumph with the Maple Leafs in ten years. It also indicates that general manager Brad Treliving has survived the purge and will be allowed to choose his own replacement for Keefe. Which is largely favored to be the former rugged Leafs winger, Craig Berube, coach of the 2019 Stanley Cup–champion St. Louis Blues.

Even if no candidate comes close to the suspended Joel Quenneville, late of the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Maple Leafs are anything but unpredictable. Few of us can comprehend what clearly must have evolved in the high tower of 60 Bay St. after Pelley arrived at the start of April. The backroom lobbying for employment on behalf of this person or another; lots of frightened, uncertain looks… with Shanahan at the center of the maelstrom.

Survival is a primal instinct and Shanahan will never go down at MLSE without the combativeness he displayed throughout his playing career. Again, it makes us wonder how such a belligerent, often–ruthless worker on the ice could repeatedly endorse the marshmallow–soft nucleus of the current Maple Leafs. And, why Shanahan should therefore not be primarily culpable for the dearth of playoff achievement. Though Keefe certainly had his chance with five post–season appearances, all he could do was work with those provided to him by management. As with any coach. And, I’m certain there isn’t a hockey mind on the planet able to coerce this group through four rounds of Stanley Cup drudgery. So, yes, as of now, MLSE has moved forward with the least exertion imaginable.

Pending tomorrow’s media colossus.


The entire scenario has to be a nightmare for the company’s publicity wing. First, the announcement that Keefe would be separated from “management” and clumped in with his players on the morning (Monday) of media exit interviews. Then, that Pelley, Shanahan and Treliving would gather with reporters on Thursday (today). Only to have the press conference mysteriously pushed back 24 hours, to tomorrow (Friday). All of this while MLSE figured what to do with Toronto Argonauts quarterback Chad Kelly, who has been suspended for at least half the upcoming Canadian Football League schedule for inappropriate conduct toward a female ex–employee. Now, the in–between enticement: Keefe being let go with one year remaining on the extension he signed last summer. With loving praise, in a media release, from GM Treliving. It could mark the first time that a coach with a .665 win percentage (212–97–40) in the National Hockey League has been fired. But, all levels of pro hockey administration must be assessed on results in the Stanley Cup chase, where Keefe sported one victory in six rounds. It’s the reason I am incredulous that Shanahan has apparently weathered another storm. He’s the architect of the perennial chaos, which is papered over by promise and a scintillating attack during the 82–game regular schedule.

And, maybe nothing else matters to MLSE.

As I’ve often theorized, I’m not certain the billion–dollar enterprise wants to end this decades–long Stanley Cup illusion. Leafs Nation, though hapless, is on board with the annual “chase” and the business model works spectacularly. So, why break the pattern and do anything drastic? With the most high–profile coaching position in the NHL now vacant, however, the Leafs do have a chance to push slightly against the grain. They could approach NHL commissioner Gary Bettman for authorization to hire the man that trails only Scotty Bowman in all–time coaching victories. Presenting Joel Quenneville a new and not–so–unique challenge. When Coach Q won the Stanley Cup with Chicago in 2010, it broke the longest existing Stanley Cup drought (49 years). That dubious mark now belongs to the Leafs (57 years). So, why not hire experience? NHL championships with the Blackhawks followed in 2013 and 2015. Involvement (or lack thereof) in the Kyle Beach sex–assault case involving a coach under Quenneville (Brad Aldrich) led to an indefinite suspension by the NHL. Joel initially grew up in the Maple Leafs organization as the club’s first draft choice (21st overall) in 1978. Midway through his second season on the blue line, he was traded to the old Colorado Rockies in the maddening deal that sent Lanny McDonald to Denver.

No one’s coaching résumé comes close to Quenneville’s. He truly is the only choice for the Leafs.

But, his procurement would take some work. Which MLSE isn’t big on.

Berube is a much–easier get. He’s available; has one Stanley Cup on his docket (with the Blues) and also departed the Maple Leafs in a monster trade — the record, 10–player swap Cliff Fletcher engineered with his old team, the Calgary Flames, that brought Doug Gilmour to Toronto (on Jan. 2, 1992). The now 58–year–old native of Calahoo, Alta. was a marginally gifted, yet bruising forward who lasted 18 years in the NHL, scoring 61 goals while amassing 3,149 penalty minutes. With a scorching rookie (Jordan Binnington) between the pipes, Berube guided St. Louis to its first (and only) NHL title: a Game 7 victory in 2019 over the Boston Bruins at TD Garden.

Again, as with Shanahan, I’d have to wonder how Berube could tolerate a skilled but passive roster.

We’ll more than likely find out, starting in October.

As for all other hockey matters at MLSE? It appears to be status quo.

The more things change…

SURPRISED BY PINBALL (but, did he make the call?)

Somewhat unexpectedly, general manager Mike (Pinball) Clemons of the Toronto Argonauts today deferred team discipline toward Chad Kelly until after the quarterback completes the CFL–mandated counselling by a gender–based violence expert. On the surface, it’s a fair approach, as it provides Kelly a second chance. Which all of us deserve at some point. Conversely, this was not the first time Kelly’s comportment and character in the workplace has come under question. And, it’s clear the club’s former strength and conditioning coach — a female — made a strong–enough case for the CFL to slap a minimum, nine–game suspension on Kelly for workplace harassment. It was anticipated, in many circles, that Pinball would cut ties with the league’s reigning Most Outstanding Player. Reluctantly, but necessarily, for the club to move forward without such a blight. Instead, the Argos likely capitulated to there being no established quarterback on the roster, with training camp beginning this week. The club still has second–year man Cameron Dukes, who capably stood in for Kelly several times last season. On the field, however, there is no comparison between the two… and jobs are often secured on the basis of wins and losses.

So, Clemons and the executive posse at Bell Canada and Kilmer Sports (Larry Tanenbaum) have chosen to buy time. Which, to me, is disappointing. How do you explain such a conclusion to female supporters of the Double Blue? You either condone Kelly’s behavior… or you don’t. There honestly is no in–between.

Which leads me to suspect a person above the principled Clemons made this decision.


13 comments on “Always The Easiest Path For MLSE

  1. I listened to the conference. Here are my take-aways:
    Sammy is not getting resigning. I don’t blame him for the loss. I blame the rest of the skaters for not putting the puck in the net. Personally, I would have asked Sammy to come back for the league min on a show me the money deal.
    After listening to the chatter, IMO Toronto is going to try to convince Tavares to waive his trade clause. If that’s the case, Toronto will have to give up somebody like Easton Cowan.
    Not once did anyone mention the lack of a bonafide defenseman. Nor did they say that Toronto’s system of having Marner advance the puck up the net and cycling the puck ad nauseum doesn’t work.
    What did work in game 5 and 6 was playing Pat Burns hockey. Dumping the puck in and following it with a bone-crushing forecheck. Toronto was foolish for not dumping Keefe earlier in the season and hiring Patrick Roy.
    My preference for Coach in Quenneville. I think he can bring in a new way for Toronto to play hockey that allows Toronto to win come playoff time. 2nd choice would be Gallant. No disrespect to Berube but I see him as lucky he had Pietrangelo for the cup run. Sometimes it’s the coach, sometimes its the players.

  2. The problem with the Leafs is that the media doesn’t hold them accountable. They ask stupid impertinent questions and avoid asking the good, hard, fair questions that need to be asked. Haven’t heard a good discussion between the media and the Leafs brass EVER! The media is supposed to represent the fans. Now, if the fans are way smarter than media, and we seem to be, the media needs to get the fcuk out of the way.

  3. Howard watching leafs players and upper management press conferences at the end of every playoff failure is a lot like watching your washing machine wash,rinse,spin and then repeat wash,rinse,spin repeat marner,nylander,matthews reilly,have done bupkis the last 8yrs once the calendar turns to may,but the only one who took any kind of responsibility after this latest debacle was sheldon which speaks volumes about his character,and the lack thereof regarding the corpse 4,this firing might sting for sheldon right now,but trust me,eventually he will realize that being released from this group is actually a blessing

  4. Looks like you are correctamundo about Berube. Sounds like he was on the turnpike to NJ when he cot a call on his flip phone from the 416 area code.

  5. Hey, Howard: my takeaway from all of this is that you, more or less, owe your sparkling career to me. Y’er welcome! Royalties of some sort?

      1. 20 years ago we moved to a country property, 23 acres between Milton and Guelph. Currently writing a humorous memoir, Wild Life, about the 20 years. Also… finished and trying to sell a novel based in the pro-hockey world: The Party Line (And Everything After); a novel you’d love with a lot of characters you’d recognize. Keep up the good work on the blog!

  6. Leafs asset management was abysmal…trying to speed up the rebuild actually set it back years as the Tavares signing just screwed up the salary structure to such a degree and the Salary cap fiasco from covid was just the cherry on top.

  7. I hear they moved their press conference from Thursday to Friday. Maybe to have time to fire Shanahan too. He can’t come back.

  8. Kyle Dubas’ work a year on from leaving the Leafs looks even worse than it did a year ago. What a legacy. The worst GM the Leafs have had since Punch Imlach. Even worse than Brian Burke. A difficult feat to achieve. But he did it. Congrats to Kyle Dubas. Misses the playoffs in Pittsburgh. But what does he care. He told Pittsburgh what they wanted to hear, and won himself a multi-year contract as President and GM. What does losing matter?

    1. Bang on. Serial loser keeps losing. What he did to this organization is criminal. He should have never been given the job.

      He will NEVER win.

      His teams in the O? Also 1 playoff round win followed by having their doors blown off in round 2.

      He’s a joke, and shouldn’t be anywhere near the National Hockey League.

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