Adam Proteau, currently the brand's columnist/writer, has worked for The Hockey News since 2002 and won the Professional Hockey Writers' award for best column in 2006. He also won the Esso Medal of Achievement for most improved player as a 13-year-old at the 'A' level in 1985, but he's less proud of that.
There have been no shortage of sideshow symptoms afflicting the Maple Leafs over the years, but many hockey people will tell you the main ailment that has plagued this franchise for decades is their ineffectiveness on the drafting and development front. Whether it’s collective assessments done by panels of scouts and GMs or the fans themselves, few have been impressed with Toronto’s record on identifying and cultivating high-impact NHLers. Indeed, the reason management often splurges on unrestricted free agents or gambles on high-risk, high-reward trades is because there hasn’t been a steady stream of cost-effective NHL-calibre talent coming through the farm system.
Even Leafs GM Dave Nonis admits the issue of in-house asset development is a real concern.
“We have to get better in all areas, scouting in particular,” Nonis told reporters Monday after the introduction of new Leafs president Brendan Shanahan. “We’re not going to become a contender through free agency if this doesn’t happen. It’s going to be player acquisition through the draft and development, or via the trade route.”
Nonis’ new hockey boss feels similarly, but cautioned against any notion of him coming into his position and clearing house, using his time as a player with the Red Wings as an example. Read more
Brendan Shanahan was formally introduced to the media as new president and alternate governor of the Toronto Maple Leafs before a packed concourse inside Air Canada Centre Monday, but there were no fireworks, fanfare or grandiose pronouncements from the Hockey Hall of Famer on his first day on the job. This was the start of a new era for the NHL’s most visible franchise, but the only thing that was assured was Shanahan’s famous work ethic and pedigree of success would be added to the management mix.
“This is the time for me to start learning about the organization,” the 45-year-old Shanahan told the massive media contingent. “It is a time for me to listen, to learn and get to work. That’s all that’s really worked for me in my career. That’s what worked for me when I was done playing hockey, and that’s what I intend to do here.”
As the Leafs players packed their bags for the summer in the building’s basement, Shanahan sat at a podium with Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment president and C.E.O. Tim Leiweke and GM Dave Nonis, and the trio talked realistically about the task ahead. And the message was clear: they’re a work-in-progress that hasn’t worked and needs to see way more progress. Leiweke used particularly strong language to indicate his displeasure with the Leafs’ brutal conclusion to the 2013-14 regular season (12 losses in their final 14 games).
“I definitely sense we lack an identity,” Leiweke said. “Right now we’re a team that lacks a direction and we want to change that.” Read more
As Brendan Shanahan settles into his new role as president of the Maple Leafs, he’ll have many issues to examine: the Leafs’ cookie-cutter in-game entertainment, for instance; or the deafening volume of the speakers facing press row. But there’s one topic that ought to take priority over all others – and it’s not the employment status of Toronto’s current coach or GM.
It’s drafting and development, an area in which the Leafs have been woefully lacking for as long as anyone can remember. If anything is going to provide meaningful change in the years to come, it’s better results from their group of talent evaluators and groomers.
If you view Toronto’s draft history/results through the prism of THN’s annual Future Watch edition, the reality becomes all the more painful. Let’s look back over the past decade and see where the Leafs’ collection of prospects have ranked every year. (And remember, each issue’s rankings are a result of consultations with a large group of NHL GMs and scouts.) Read more
Yes, THN’s mailbag is back. What, you were expecting something different, maybe? It’s Friday. This is what happens on Fridays. Prepare yourself accordingly.
Adam, what are the possibilities of the Oilers acquiring Tyler Myers?? I realize you are going to give up a lot to get him, but could a trade similar to the Phil Kessel trade be a good deal?? I know Buffalo is loaded in terms of picks (this year and next), but could they go for a first-round pick in 2015 and a 1st round pick in 2016? I only say this because I would love to see the Oilers’ future with Tyler Myers and (possibly) Aaron Ekblad together, and a supporting cast of Justin Schultz, Oscar Klefbom, Darnell Nurse and Martin Marancin. I would also love to see the top six forwards not change. If you were Tim Murray, would you accept my proposal and trade Tyler Myers?
T.J. Zielman, Exeter, Ont.
Not only would I accept your proposal, I’d also jump into your arms and hug you for a long time, because two first-rounders for a blueliner whose stock has fallen as much as Myers’ has since he won the Calder Trophy in 2010 is a major overpayment. First round picks are far too valuable to expend on a player who has regressed and who also comes with a bulky contract that has five years left with an annual salary cap hit of $5.5 million.
Now, Edmonton may have more interest in a Myers deal centered around Sam Gagner, but that’s another story altogether. Murray and coach Ted Nolan might look at Myers – who still is just 24 years old – and decide they’d rather not give up on him just yet, especially if it means taking on Gagner’s $4.8-million salary for the next two seasons when Buffalo is on a long-term rebuild. Further complicating matters is Myers’ limited no-trade clause. So I wouldn’t get overly excited about him joining the Oilers just yet. Read more
The NHL is being sued for the second time by a group of retired players over the issue of concussions.
The class-action lawsuit, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court, seeks damages on behalf of nine former NHLers – Dan LaCouture, Jack Carlson, Mike Peluso, Dan Keczmer, Richard Brennan, Brad Maxwell, Allan Rourke, Scott Bailey and Tom Younghans – via the allegation the league unlawfully exploited its players by subjecting them to “extreme violence as a commodity” and unnecessary head trauma.
“The NHL has failed and continues to fail to warn its players of these risks and consequences of head trauma, concealing material scientific and anecdotal information from its players,” the lawsuit goes on to allege. “The NHL has failed to institute policies and protocols that could have and will protect its players from suffering or exacerbating head trauma sustained during practice or in games.” Read more
Multiple reports that top Maple Leafs executive Tim Leiweke has reached out to NHL chief disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan for a high-ranking management role with the team should be hugely encouraging for Leafs fans nursing their wounds after another disastrous season. If the Hockey Hall-of-Famer has any interest in moving back to his hometown, ownership needs to move heaven and earth to make it happen, because he’s exactly the type of dynamic, modern-minded executive who could thrive with this team.
Like anyone they add to the mix, Shanahan wouldn’t be a guarantor a Stanley Cup arrives in a hurry. It will still take years to build the Leafs into a consistent championship threat, and the 45-year-old will face a learning curve as all rookie management members do. If he becomes GM, skeptics will point to the fact he has no experience in that role and question whether he can do the job under the microscope and incredible pressure of Toronto.
However, Shanahan has accumulated a different type of experience in his four-and-a-half years working out of the NHL’s New York City head office. In his current role as vice-president of player safety, he is in contact with all 30 GMs and watches as much, if not more hockey than any of them. He is a consensus-seeker who understands how the game is policed at the league level and has a reputation for fairness. He would have to negotiate his way through the corporate jungle that is MLSE, but he wouldn’t be signing up with the Leafs to have strings attached to him. Leiweke would have to give him full autonomy on hockey moves – the kind Shanahan’s friend and former teammate Steve Yzerman has with the Tampa Bay Lightning – and if Leiweke is talking to Shanahan, he knows that’s how it would need to be. Read more
Since Air Canada Centre opened in February of 1999, the arena has hosted just 44 NHL playoff games – and only three since 2004. In keeping with that abysmal tradition, there will be no post-season hockey to enjoy this spring in Toronto; the Maple Leafs are out of the playoffs for the eighth time in the past nine seasons, leaving their fans despondent and Bon Jovi concert promoters thrilled at the possibility of more open dates for shows.
But picture the same scenario playing out, only with the Leafs chock-full of dynamic young players who are now ready to contribute in a significant fashion. That’s what should’ve happened immediately after the 2004-05 lockout season, but for too long Leafs fans have been told – either by former GM Brian Burke explicitly, or by ownership’s actions implicitly – that Torontonians have no appetite for a long-term rebuild. Instead, the franchise made a t-shirt cannon for money, and aimed it at whichever high-profile free agent du jour came along in the hope they could arrive at their final destination faster than they otherwise would have.
Whether it was Jason Blake in 2007, Mike Komisarek in 2009, or David Clarkson last summer, the Leafs have succumbed to temptation at virtually every turn and wound up regretting it almost immediately thereafter. The ability to write checks to paper over their structural issues has stunted their growth on the drafting and development front, even after Burke arrived in 2008 and drastically bulked up their scouting staff. They’re not totally bereft of young talent, but THN’s 2014 Future Watch edition ranked them 29th out of 30 teams. That is as unacceptable as any on-ice disaster their fans have seen this season. Read more
The Washington Capitals likely won’t make a playoff appearance this year, but captain Alex Ovechkin continued adding to his individual achievements by scoring his 50th goal of the season Tuesday. It was the fifth time in his nine-year NHL career the 28-year-old has reached the 50-goal plateau, and the first time since 2009-10.