As the NHL offseason is now underway, the Toronto Maple Leafs have been very quiet. This lack of activity has some questioning the leadership of team President Brendan Shanahan.Will the Leafs go into the NHL Draft without a General Manager?
Toronto - May 15, 2015 - Alot has been made about the Leafs unfilled general manager and head coaching positions, and has led some to question Brendan Shanahan’s approach. As the draft gets closer and those positions remain vacant, some believe it shows either a lack of vision, or an inability to execute whatever vision Shanahan may have. Now the head coaching vacancy won’t be filled until current Detroit Red Wings’ coach Mike Babcock has made a decision as to where he will be next year. This means the Leafs’ may well be coach-less when they make their first pick 4th overall come draft time in June. However, to go through the draft without a GM is an uncommon occurrence.
The more time that passes without a GM hiring, the more questions Shanahan will have to answer. And while the lack of progress could be concerning, there is something about Shanahan’s approach that comforts me as the process drags on. And it’s a very simple element of his approach. Brendan Shanahan seems very comfortable admitting he might not know everything. He is seemingly egoless, willing to defer to those he feels know better. This may seem like a small thing, but in my mind it’s what makes him the best man for his job.
In the hockey world, everybody has an idea of the way it should be. Whether it be about the size of players, or the type of coach you should hire, everybody seems set in stone when it comes to how they do things. More and more in today’s hockey world, this kind of mentality can be blinding. 5 foot 9 inch, 150 pound Calgary Flames’ breakout star Johnny Gaudreau was drafted 104th overall in 2011. If he were a few inches taller and 40 pounds heavier, would he have fallen to the fourth round? Probably not. This league however puts a heavy emphasis on size, which Gaudreau clearly lacks. Would you know it from his stat sheet though? Absolutely not.
Shanahan appears to break this mould. He’s not only tolerant of change, but he’s seemingly comfortable with it. He’s fluid in his approach, and if he thinks someone has a better understanding of a situation, he appears to have no problem trusting them. The “old school” mentalities shared by so many in the hockey world appear to be no concern of his. His only concern is what is winning games today. It was this approach that led him to Kyle Dubas and Mark Hunter. Two men who also seem to not give a damn about what the status quo may be. It’s simply about putting the best team on the ice.
Whoever the next general manager of the Leafs may be, I have little doubt that they will be progressive in their approach to the game. Shanahan will find someone who, intellectually speaking, is on the same wavelength as the rest of the current management group. They will be fluid in their approach, and they will embrace learning from their mistakes. It’s often said that the most important thing after getting knocked down, is to get back up. Shanahan’s approach seems to be, when you get knocked down, get up and figure out why you got knocked down.
The Leafs’ have been knocked down a lot lately, and they’ve done their best to get back up, but that is all the focus has been. Getting back up. Shanahan seems intent on not only getting back up, but learning from the fall in order to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Despite whatever perceived lack of action there may be, Shanahan’s approach and philosophy in the search is enough to quell my nerves. And frankly, his approach is a much welcomed change from what we’re all far too accustomed to.
-Rob McPhee (@RobMcPhee on Twitter)