SBD/October 1, 2013/NHL Season Preview

Maple Leafs Look To New Ownership Structure To Produce Long-Term Stability

Nonis said patience is an important quality for a GM to have
There is a "different feeling in the air" around the Maple Leafs at the start of the season, as the revamped organization has an "opportunity to sustain some degree of success for as long as or longer than those achieved" by former President Ken Dryden’s teams from '98-'04, according to Damien Cox of the TORONTO STAR. Despite the "embarrassing" Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Game 7 loss to the Bruins last spring, that series was "still seen by most as a step forward by the Leafs, a demonstration of an ability to compete with the best in the league." For the Leafs, ownership has "often been a source of the team’s inability to have extended periods of competitive success." Cox: "How stable is the dynamic duo of Bell/CTV and Rogers/Sportsnet as joint majority owners?" That is "hard to say." MLSE has "heaved a bunch of bodies overboard in recent months under the leadership" of President & CEO Tim Leiweke. If he "keeps his mitts off the hockey club and the pictures up in the hallways, and if Bell [President & CEO] George Cope doesn’t wake up one morning and decide [GM Dave] Nonis doesn’t fit the brand, there’s a chance for the Leafs to remain stable after a decade of constant player change and management/coaching upheaval" (TORONTO STAR, 9/28).

LEADER OF THE PACK: Cox wrote Nonis is "less flamboyant and outspoken" than former President & GM Brian Burke. While he is "less of a face of the franchise, Nonis still has his hands full." He has been a GM before with the Canucks, but Nonis "is now under the microscope more than he's ever been in his 23-year career as a hockey executive." Asked if he felt he was out of Burke's shadow, Nonis said, "I never really felt like I was under his shadow. I've always been my own person, done things my own way. I think there's more separation now." He added of differences between running the Canucks and Leafs, "There's great interest in Vancouver but in Toronto there's just more. There are more fans, there's more media, there's more attention. There are more obligations. There's more history. There's just more of everything. I think Vancouver was a good training ground for me. I think this is a place and a job that would be difficult as a first job. It's hard enough as it is." Nonis said the most important quality for a GM to have "is patience." He added, "There’s some pretty bright people over the past 15, 20, 30 years that weren’t good managers because they were impulsive. The ones that have had success, not only are they bright and have nerve, they wait for things to happen. You can’t make things happen in this business. Sometimes you have to take your lumps and wait" (TORONTO STAR, 9/28).

POPULARITY CONTEST: In Toronto, Rob Longley writes, "In ways far beyond the control of the coach, management and the players, sometimes it sucks to be the Maple Leafs." When it comes to the "rough start to the 2013-14 season, start with television." TSN "successfully lobbied to have its Wednesday night national schedule debut with the Leafs and the league complied with the Flyers -- a guaranteed ratings blockbuster." However, it "didn't take long for CBC to object, likely at full volume." With the "big-ticket rights the public broadcaster shells out, Hockey Night in Canada wasn't about to let TSN get the jump on the first Leafs telecast." As a result, the Maple Leafs will open at the Canadiens before traveling to face the Flyers. Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said that there "won't be sympathy in any quarters -- especially for a franchise that pulls so much weight with the league and the networks that cover it." Longley notes, however, what has "resulted is the rather odd predicament of Leafs 'partners' who stand to benefit from any success the team has in the form of big ratings inadvertently creating a situation that makes winning more difficult" (TORONTO SUN, 10/1).
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