Brendan Shanahan was introduced as the Toronto Maple Leafs' new president and alternate governor at a press conference Monday that gave every indication that general manager David Nonis's job is safe.
Shanahan, 45, will oversee all operations for the Maple Leafs, from both the hockey and business perspectives. The hire was officially made late last week.
Toronto finished 12th in the Eastern Conference this season after a promising start, missing the playoffs for the eighth time in nine seasons.
Shanahan said he had "those excited nerves of anticipation" upon taking the job.
"At the same time I understand the difficulty of it," he said of the challenge.
Tim Leiweke, who has already earned a reputation for boldness in just under a year as president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, said Monday it was time for a change at the top.
"I definitely sense that we lack an identity, and right now we're a team that lacks a direction and we want to change that," Leiweke said.
Those strong words would seem to be partially an indictment of Nonis, but the general manager was present and complimented frequently Monday by the MLSE president and the incoming Shanahan.
Leiweke signed Nonis to a five-year extension last summer but insisted it was known within the organization at that time that a president to oversee the team was desired.
For his part, Shanahan praised Nonis and said he believed the pair would work well together.
Nonis wasn't in an expansive mood regarding the future of the current coach, merely stating that Randy Carlyle was "a good coach."
Long Cup drought
Shanahan is a local product, having grown up in the Mimico neighbourhood of Etobicoke, Ont., a Toronto suburb. He went on to play 1,524 NHL games with New Jersey, St. Louis, Hartford, Detroit and the New York Rangers, earning entry into the Hockey Hall of Fame last November with 656 goals and 698 assists in his regular-season career.
He won three Stanley Cups as a member of the Red Wings and a gold medal with Canada at the 2002 Olympics.
Shanahan said that while everyone recognizes Detroit's drafting record and organizational stability, when he joined the Red Wings in 1996 that was not the case.
During the 2004-05 lockout, Shanahan helped spearhead a summit to test out potential changes to the game, including shootouts and removal of the centre red line.
After retirement, he joined the NHL’s head office in December 2009 as vice president of hockey and business development, later moving to the position of chief disciplinarian for the league.
Leiweke said he began talking to Shanahan about the opportunity since last week, and he lauded the new hire's passion and ability to be analytical.
Shanahan follows the likes of Steve Yzerman (Tampa Bay), Cam Neely (Boston) and the recently hired Trevor Linden (Vancouver) as former NHL stars who've assumed positions of front-office authority despite a relative lack of business experience.
What sets Shanahan apart from some of his contemporaries is that he will be president of both business and hockey operations.
He will be tasked with bringing the Maple Leafs their first Stanley Cup since 1967, the longest drought of the Original Six franchises.
"The opportunity to win is special in any place," Shanahan said. "Whoever wins the Stanley Cup this year, it will be a special occasion. I recognize, and everybody recognizes, what potentially it could be like in Toronto."
The Leafs did not release specific contract details for Shanahan.