Brendan Shanahan hopes to hire next Leafs GM by NHL draft
Team president says it's not his intention to step into role
Toronto Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan says he's hopeful the team's next general manager will be in place by the June 26-27 NHL draft in Sunrise, Fla., but isn't going to be bound by deadlines.
Shanahan on Sunday fired GM Dave Nonis, a day after the team lost 4-3 to Montreal in its regular-season finale, finishing 27th in the 30-team NHL with a 30-44-8 record.
"We're looking for the right person," Shanahan told reporters at Monday's news conference.
That person, in all likelihood, is not Shanahan, who said it's not his intention to step into the role one year after joining the team from the NHL's head office as chief disciplinarian of the league.
Nonis departs with three years remaining on his contract and a 94-97-21 record in 212 games as Toronto's GM.
Shanahan announced sweeping changes Sunday, also firing interim head coach Peter Horachek, assistant coaches Steve Spott and Chris Dennis, goalie coach Rick St. Croix, director of pro scouting Steve Kasper and director of player development Jim Hughes.
Steve Staios, who was added to the Leafs' bench upon Horachek's appointment in January, will resume his duties as manager of player development.
The Leafs won only nine of 42 games (9-28-5) since Horachek took over from the fired Randy Carlyle on Jan. 7. At that time, the team was 21-16-3 and in a playoff spot.
For now, assistant GM Kyle Dubas and director of player personnel Mark Hunter will share GM responsibilities on an interim basis.
We want someone that shares our vision. We need to have a team with greater character.- Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan
Shanahan made it clear he doesn't want to eliminate anyone from the GM hiring process, including Dubas and Hunter, who joined the Maple Leafs in October and was asked by Shanahan and Nonis to find players and also assess the club's pro and amateur scouting department.
"We have time," he said. "There are people who are available now. There will be more people available, obviously, as the summer goes.
"We want someone that shares our vision. We need to have a team with greater character. We have to have people that represent this city and represent this team as it deserves. I think we have an incredibly loyal, resilient fanbase. We need to have an incredibly resilient group of players that love to play in Toronto.
"We need to have an incredibly resilient group of managers, from top to bottom, that are committed to doing this in Toronto," Shanahan added, "in spite of any perceived difficulties that this is a harder [hockey] market than other markets. I don't believe that."
Ideally, noted Shanahan, the Maple Leafs would prefer to have a GM in place before hiring the 20th head coach since they last won the Stanley Cup in 1967 with Punch Imlach behind the bench, but he isn't opposed to adding a bench boss first.
"If I feel that the right person is available, and if Mark [Hunter] and Kyle [Dubas] feel that the right person is available and we get a fantastic coach, I don't think it diminishes a general manager's interest in coming to Toronto."
For months, the Leafs have been rumoured to have interest in several NHL head coaches such as Detroit's Mike Babcock, San Jose's Todd McLellan and Arizona's Dave Tippett. Babcock is believed to be Shanahan's preferred choice after leading the Red Wings to a Stanley Cup title in 2008 and guiding Canada to an Olympic gold medal two years later.
Shanahan believes the Leafs are on the right track to achieving success by building a capable and dedicated staff. He wants to add a GM that recognizes that vision and wants to be a part of the group.
With or without that person, Toronto's plan to draft and develop its own players while being patient won't be altered.
"Our vision, indeed, is to draft and develop our own players," Shanahan reiterated. "When a player is ready to come up [from the American Hockey League] he'll come up. If a player needs more time to reach his full potential, we'll leave him [in the minors].
"I think every decision we make has to be about how we build a winning organization that can sustain itself year after year after year through the draft. That is our vision.
"As far as having the patience to do what's needed to be done," Shanahan went on, "you have to have a stomach in order to get through it in a place with this much passion. I have that stomach. This has to be built the right way … and, once and for all, be a build that we are committed to and don't stray from."
The process will continue at the June draft, if not before.
Other thoughts from Shanahan:
His evaluation of the Leafs' 2014-15 lineup:
"We have some talented parts to this team but as a group … I think that they've shown, and they understand and accept that over the last several years, for whatever reason, the mix doesn't work. In spite of the fact we have talented individuals, if the mix doesn't work, there's going to be changes."
On who replaces outgoing Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment president/CEO Tim Leiweke:
"I've gotten extreme support from our board [of directors]. They're frustrated that this hasn't happened over the years and they understand this has to be done the right way. Sometimes the right way takes a while … I have complete faith that they will hire someone that shares that vision."
On the attitude and on-ice approach he would like to see from his players next season:
"I don't think what [fans here] can understand is people that go out and give half efforts and don't appear to enjoy playing here. You have to give the effort and at least show a happiness in being a Toronto Maple Leaf, and an enthusiasm.
Even if the [win-loss] record is the same as this [season's 30-44-8] I think we just have to be able to play differently and approach this game differently in this city. I think that's what had most people so upset this year."
On the importance of character in a dressing room:
"I would never attribute [it] to one person. It has to come from a group. It's not good enough [with this team]. I haven't been satisfied with it. They [the players] would all have to look in the mirror and probably agree as a group it didn't get done, but I do think when you look at championship teams it's really about a group effort when it comes to leadership."