Shanahan Introduced As Leafs President, Ready To Embrace Challenge
New Maple Leafs President Brendan Shanahan yesterday during his introductory press conference "came across as smart, canny, ready to embrace the challenge in front of him," according to Bruce Arthur of the NATIONAL POST. Shanahan was "cautious about how he sees the game" and "didn't make specific promises." He also "correctly said winning the press conference would mean nothing" (NATIONAL POST, 4/15). The CP's Stephen Whyno noted "plenty of changes are expected" within the Leafs organization. Shanahan said, "I have some ideas in my head about direction." With Shanahan as president, the Leafs' "power structure is different." MLSE President & CEO Tim Leiweke said Shanahan and GM Dave Nonis "will work together and if we have disagreements, the disagreements will be resolved very quickly within the organization. This isn't going to tear the organization apart." But Whyno wrote, "This is Shanahan's team" (CP, 4/14). Leiweke said of Shanahan, "If you look at his character -- the man fights. He fought as a player. He fought for the union. He fought for the game and now he fights for the integrity of the league. Now he comes here and fights for the Leafs." Leiweke added of his conversation with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman about hiring Shanahan away from the league office, "That was not such a pleasant conversation. The timing was not very good. He brought Brendan in and groomed him. Gary is very proud of that and he should be. To his credit, Gary got it. He understood that teams are ultimately what makes the sport great" (TORONTO SUN, 4/15).
LIVING IN THE LIMELIGHT: The CBC's Mike Brophy wrote Shanahan has "never shied away from the limelight," but yesterday he said that this is a "time for him to listen and learn." He "knows the value of skill, but more importantly, he knows the value of hard work and determination." There will be "no freeloaders on Shanahan's watch." If a player "doesn't toe the line, Shanahan will replace him." Leiweke said that Shanahan will "be responsible for all hockey decisions." Nonis, who has four years remaining on his contract, "will be retained and will answer to Shanahan" (CBC.ca, 4/14). In Toronto, Steve Buffery writes some of the "major spin" at yesterday's conference was that bringing in Shanahan "is good for Nonis." Nonis himself said that he was "happy with the move." Buffery: "Really? How could that be? Basically, the hiring of Shanahan is a message to Nonis that the organization doesn’t trust him to make the key decisions anymore." Nonis now "has to throw all his ideas past Shanahan." Buffery: "Hardly the situation an experienced hockey executive wants" (TORONTO SUN, 4/15). The NATIONAL POST's Michael Traikos writes the new relationship "will only work if Nonis and Shanahan are on the same page" (NATIONAL POST, 4/15). The GLOBE & MAIL's Cathal Kelly writes Nonis was "effectively demoted to assistant GM," and if he "fidgets in that reduced role, he will be fired" (GLOBE & MAIL, 4/15).
TIM'S TAKE: SPORTSNET's Michael Grange wrote Leiweke was "exactly 33 seconds into his introduction of Shanahan as the Leafs new messiah" when he "cited the transformation under his watch" of the Raptors and Toronto FC for "inspiration on the Maple Leafs file." Leiweke said, "I spend a lot of time talking about culture and character. ... A lot of that is a commitment we made to create the right environment, to hire the right people to create the right culture. I’m not sure the Leafs have it. … I definitely sense we lack an identity and right now we’re a team that lacks a direction and we want to change that.” Grange: "At first listen this sounds kind of reasonable. It sounds very leadership-ish. It smacks of bold strategies devised and executed. But that doesn’t make it accurate, and it almost certainly doesn’t make it repeatable or transferrable" (SPORTSNET.ca, 4/14).