Expect a new look on the ice and perhaps behind the bench in Toronto next season. (Abelimages/Getty Images)
By Allan Muir
Forced into an early reveal by rumors that spread on Thursday night -- apparently the defense is as leaky in Toronto's front office as it is on the ice -- the Maple Leafs confirmed this morning that Brendan Shanahan has been appointed to the position of President and Alternate Governor of the struggling club.
It's a sensible career move for the Hall of Famer, who leaves a thankless gig as the NHL's chief disciplinarian in order to oversee all team operations for a club that could really use a firm hand after missing out on the playoffs for the eighth time in nine years.
And given the reputation for innovative thinking and consensus building that he earned during his tenure with the league -- remember the post-lockout Shanahan Summit that led to the creation of the competition committee and implemented ways of enhancing skill and speeding up the game? -- he seems like a fairly safe bet for the Leafs, too. Shanny's shy on front office experience, but he's a guy who has proved that he can learn on the job, a skill that will come in handy as he takes on this new exercise. And he has some seriously thick skin, a necessary tool for anyone signing on with this organization.
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It remains to be seen how everything will shake out, but Shanahan won't be inclined to maintain the status quo. The Leafs didn't just fall short this year. They were exposed. Their model doesn't work. That means the performance of everyone from the general manager to the coaching staff to the players will be scrutinized to determine if they can be part of the solution moving forward.
More than a few will fail that inspection.
Before he can assess individuals, Shanahan needs to crystallize his vision for the organization. There's no telling what that team will look like, but don't assume that he'll remake the Leafs in his own image. Shanahan was a unique player from a different era and if his time in the league office has taught him anything, it's that those days are gone.
That doesn't mean there won't be hints of his style in the future product. Shanahan wasn't just tough. He was determined, relentless, responsible. Those are qualities that still have currency.
But today's top teams win consistently by controlling the puck more often than the other guys. And that skill set runs counter to the personnel assembled by GM Dave Nonis and the systems employed by coach Randy Carlyle ... a reality that doesn't bode well for their continued employment under Shanahan.
That doesn't mean either man is necessarily finished. Shanahan may conclude that both can succeed if given a different template for success. Or he may decide that the candidates available to him aren't necessarily better than what he has on hand.
We do know this much: Shanahan is smart enough to know he can't trot out the same old Leafs next season and expect better results. That's the old definition of insanity. He's being brought in to implement new ideas and approaches, to maximize the team's almost boundless resources, to lead instead of follow.
It won't be quick, but change is
coming to Toronto.