How Brendan Shanahan’s extension puts a timeline on Maple Leafs success

Brendan Shanahan has been extended for 6 years as the Toronto Maple Leafs President and Alternative Governor. It appears after sustained playoff appearances, Shanahan will get more time to see the Leafs become Stanley Cup champions.

Initially, there is no real downside to this move. Shanahan is an NHL veteran, Stanley Cup-winning player, who has extended time working as the NHL’s vice president of hockey and business development and the NHL’s Senior Vice President.

His resume speaks for itself, and now as the President of the Maple Leafs, Shanahan has guided the teams rebuild to a perennial playoff team. The turn around Shanahan has facilitated in his 5-year tenure is immense, but the pressure really begins now. How can Shanahan secure playoff success for the Leafs moving forward?

The Shana-plan.

The old Shana-plan was more straight forward – rebuild the team. Upon joining the Maple Leafs in 2014, Shanahan stayed quiet and assessed the situation. After that, the pieces started falling into place at a management level first then player personnel to follow.

The blueprint was simple – find out who is worth keeping in the system, insulate them with low-risk high-reward free agents, stockpile draft picks, acquire more draft picks, rely on scouting network to fill the cupboards with organizational talent, and focus on creating a deep, playoff contending team.


The New Shana-plan?

Believe it or not, that was the easy part. Shanahan made the most out of his initial contract with Toronto by supporting himself with a veteran GM, his new-age successor, a trusted and respected coach, and by flexing the MLSE budget where he can.

What comes next will truly define Shanahan’s legacy as a part of the Toronto Maple Leafs ethos; can he make the Leafs a winner?

It should be noted that Shanahan is not the Leafs President of hockey operations, but rather their overall President (and alternate governor). Speculation on his position has led onlookers to believe he has near, if not complete autonomy on the player and executive personnel. Dubas certainly has his role in player personnel too, but Shanahan is at the helm for certain.

With part one completed, a five-year assessment and rebuild of the Toronto Maple Leafs, on comes part 2. Brendan Shanahan has to make the Leafs a Stanley Cup champion… easy, right?

This isn’t over the top, hyperbolic talk. No, this is an honest assessment of what Shanahan’s ultimate goal is. Exactly like players, coaches, and managers, President Shanahan is on a contract with winning as his ultimate goal.

I have zero NHL GM experience (hard to believe, I know) but the way to do this is maintaining the Leafs current trajectory; keep the core intact and tweak minor parts along the way.

Shanahan has clearly empowered Kyle Dubas as GM to run the day-to-day team-related business. Forcing him to cut his teeth at the AHL level while learning under Lou Lamoriello, Dubas is a hybrid between old school style and new school ideas. Dubas’ ascension and early success has clearly lifted some of the weight off of Shanny’s shoulders.

The Outlook

Now, what can Shanahan do moving forward to get Toronto over the first-round playoff hurdle they’re currently stuck behind? Force constant change and innovation for the team. Complacency breeds incompetence and Shanahan needs to be the puppeteer taskmaster who is pulling the strings behind the scenes and motivating his team to continuously grow.

Shanahan still has two bullets to fire, too, firing the coach and firing the GM. Lamoriello leaving the Leafs was part of the plan so no need to count that. Mounting pressure after yet another first-round loss to Boston has Leafs Nation questioning Babcock’s ability to lead, but as per usual Shanahan and Dubas have doubled down on their coach.

It’s reserved and logical and a move of self-preservation for both. If Babcock is fired that leaves Dubas as next in line to fall on the Shanahan sword. The questions would seep in then, what about Mark Hunter? Should the Leafs have stuck with Lou?

Rather than being reactionary, the allegory of Mike Babcock shows the path Shanahan will take – patient and confident. It’s clear Babcock needs to adjust his coaching to win in today’s NHL, so why throw him out with money on his deal without a better replacement lined up?

It makes no sense and Shanahan knows that. For Leaf fans, get used to the cone of silence surrounding Toronto to continue. Shanahan works in the shadows of MLSE and he probably prefers going by as unnoticed as possible. The changes will come to the team, but you can be assured they’ll be measured and logical.

Six years. That’s the leash Shanahan has to take Toronto to the promised land. If the Leaf’s aren’t Stanley Cup champions by then how will he be remembered, Leafs Nation?

Published by

Adam Smith

Avid fan of The Toronto Maple Leafs, West Ham United, Minnesota Vikings, and Toronto Blue Jays. Involved in all things sports from playing (poorly) to tracking on twitter, my love for the teams I support tends to bleed into all aspects of my life!

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