Tag Archives: Brendan Shanahan

A Giant Step In The Right Direction

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Following Sunday night’s loss to the Washington Capitals, the 2016-2017 National Hockey League season has come to an end for the Toronto Maple Leafs; however for the first time in a long time, their appears to be some hope for this storied franchise. This year’s trip to the Stanley Cup Playoffs marked the first journey to the postseason for the Maple Leafs since 2013. And although that Toronto has still been unable to win it all since 1967, things are looking up for them.

Brendan Shanahan

The seeds of the Maple Leafs turnaround were initially planted in 2014 when Brendan Shanahan was named as the team’s president and alternate governor. In Shanahan’s first year the Leafs would fail to qualify for the postseason as he acknowledged that they were rebuilding. That rebuild would take the next step at the conclusion of the 2014-2015 National Hockey League season when the Maple Leafs were able to lure Mike Babcock away from the Detroit Red Wings in order to become their next head coach, while they also traded their best player in right winger Phil Kessel to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Toronto would only win 29 games during the 2015-2016 NHL season, but they would earn the first overall selection in the upcoming draft.

Auston Matthews

The Maple Leafs would use that selection on center Auston Matthews who has quickly become a household name within the Province of Ontario. In Matthews’ first game, he scored 4 goals in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Ottawa Senators. Matthews would go on to score 40 goals which was second in the National Hockey League, while his 69 points would lead Toronto. And after Babcock had missed making the playoffs as a head coach for the just the second in his career last year, things would be much different this season.

The Leafs would hold off the surge of both the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders coming down the stretch in the regular season to earn the final wild card berth in the Eastern Conference which set up a date with the Capitals in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. For the second consecutive year the Caps finished with the best record in the National Hockey League which earned them the Presidents’ Trophy, but don’t count the Maple Leafs as far as those being in awe.

After Toronto dropped the first game of the series 3-2 in overtime, they would climb back to win the next two games. The Leafs pushed the Capitals throughout the series as five of the six contest were decided in overtime. And when the Maple Leafs ended their season with the customary handshake line with the Caps at the end of Game 6, their fans gave them a boisterous ovation as they left the ice at the Air Canada Centre.

This Maple Leafs playoff loss wasn’t like their defeat in 2013 when they blew a three-goal lead in Game 7 to the Boston Bruins in the first round as some people deemed it as the same old Toronto; however there is now some renewed optimism for this club.

Matthews is the real deal as he could become the first Maple Leafs player since left winger Brit Selby in 1966 to earn the Calder Memorial Trophy as the National Hockey League’s Rookie of the Year. Matthews will be the Leafs franchise player for the next decade as he could have the kind of impact that center Sidney Crosby is having with the Pittsburgh Penguins and left winger Alex Ovechkin has for the Capitals as now it is time to build around him.

Mike Babcock

Getting Babcock to leave the Red Wings after a contract dispute with the team was a coup as he has a wealth of experience which included winning the Stanley Cup with Detroit in 2008. And it is hard to overlook the 23 years worth of playing experience in the NHL that Shanahan possesses, while he is also showing the ability to get it done in the front office as well which provides plenty of optimism in Toronto that good things are finally on the horizon for the Leafs.

Source: Hockey-reference.com

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Another Lost Season For The Maple Leafs

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The 13 Stanley Cup Championships that have been won by the Toronto Maple Leafs are second most in National Hockey League history behind the Montreal Canadiens. But 1967 was when the Maple Leafs won their last title and unfortunately for the franchise it is now nothing but a distant memory. Over the last decade the Maple Leafs only have one playoff appearance to their credit and they have become something from the ranks of Wile E. Coyote as they have become a calamity of errors. In that one trip to the postseason, the Maple Leafs overcame a 3-1 series deficit against the Boston Bruins to force a Game 7 in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But in Game 7, the Maple Leafs had a 4-1 lead in the third period only to blow the game and the series as they’ve failed to recover since.

The Maple Leafs record of 27-40-6 has them in seventh place in the Atlantic Division and they’ve already been eliminated from playoff contention in the Eastern Conference. Midway through the season Randy Carlyle was fired as Maple Leafs head coach and he was replaced by Peter Horachek who has fared no better as Toronto is 6-24-3 under him. I don’t see the Maple Leafs retaining Horachek when this NHL season thankfully comes to an end for them as he has the interim tag attached to him.

Brendan Shanahan

It has been nearly a year since Brendan Shanahan took over as the president of the Maple Leafs and not much has changed for this team as far as improvement. Last May, Shanahan supported Maple Leafs general manager David Nonis when he gave Carlyle a two-year contract extension only to turn around and fire him this past January. And just prior to the NHL’s trade deadline this season, the Maple Leafs made a slew of moves to waive the white flag as they sent veterans such as forward Daniel Winnik and right winger David Clarkson out of town. Defenseman Dion Phaneuf is the Maple Leafs captain and after being tired of having him taking a verbal beating at the hands of the media in Toronto, right winger Phil Kessel came to the aide of his teammate to defend him as things there have become highly combustible there.

With this season currently a wash, all the Maple Leafs can do is rebuild and for the first time in a long time attempt to put a winning “system” into place. Recently the Maple Leafs have not drafted well and they will need to develop a core group of players that will once again make them a force in the NHL. The City of Toronto is the home to the Hockey Hall of Fame and the fans there are loyal and they want to erupt in order to support a winning team. It has to hurt the Maple Leafs fan base to know that they’ll be the only “Original Six” team that will not make the postseason this spring. And just like winning is contagious, the same can be said about losing. For the Maple Leafs they must find a way to dig themselves out of the rut that they are currently in as they’re searching for respectability.

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