In his job running the NHL’s department of player safety, Brendan Shanahan often had to make quick decisions. He would hold a hearing, issue a ruling and shoot a video explaining a suspension — all sometimes in a matter of hours.
Tasked in his new role as Toronto Maple Leafs president with fixing what ails a team that lost 12 of its final 14 games to miss the playoffs, Shanahan feels plenty of internal pressure to make some changes.
But he knows it won’t be an easy or fast process.
“I’m realistic that you can’t do everything overnight, that there are 29 other teams that are trying to accomplish the same goal and also covet good players,” Shanahan said in a phone interview Wednesday. “No one’s going to lay down for us because we’re the Toronto Maple Leafs and give us their assets.”
Shanahan took his time before deciding along with general manager Dave Nonis to extend coach Randy Carlyle for two more seasons and fire assistants Scott Gordon, Greg Cronin and Dave Farrish. He seems willing to take a patient approach in remaking the roster to suit his style.
One month into this new challenge, the 45-year-old insisted it’s too early to even know how much change the Leafs need.
“You want to be ready to come out of the gates. We all know how important each game is. But I would say with most teams, the team that starts a season isn’t necessarily the same team that ends a season,” Shanahan said. “For me, timing is less an issue as is the quality of the decisions. I don’t feel and I’m not getting any pressure from anyone in the organization saying this team has to look like this by this date.”
Shanahan will lean on the scouting staff at the draft, but he won’t shy away from sharing his opinion. When it comes to making trades and signing free agents, he’ll begin the true process of molding the Leafs in his image.
Given the talk about culture change and a lack of an identity from Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment President Tim Leiweke on the day Shanahan was introduced, some significant moves should probably be expected.
Nonis is fond of saying that even as he signs players to long-term deals, none of them include full no-trade clauses. Shanahan believes that gives the Leafs roster flexibility to make changes.
“I would agree with Dave’s assessment,” he said. “Absolutely.”
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