Somewhere, somehow, some quack-job Toronto Maple Leafs fan found a magic lamp. Or wand. Or puck. Or Punch Imlach’s fedora. Or anything to wish a mystical transformation upon hockey’s most sad-sack franchise.
And all the far-fetched theories or ideas typically reserved for irate late-night radio show callers began to come true.
“Yo, the Leafs should make Brendan Shanahan their president.”
“Yo, the Leafs should hire Mike Babcock as head coach.”
“Yo, the Leafs should trade Phil Kessel.”
“Yo, the Leafs should hire Lou Lamoriello as GM.”
“Yo, the Leafs should trade Dion Phaneuf.”
They all would’ve seemed like typical Toronto-media-constructed fantasies even a few years ago. Instead, they’ve happened. The Shanahan regime continues to slide pieces into place, transforming the Leafs team culture. Assistant GM Kyle Dubas is the franchise’s analytics driver and oversees the powerhouse AHL affiliate Marlies. Lamoriello has instilled the same tight-lipped mentality he used in New Jersey for close to three decades. Director of player personnel Mark Hunter holds the keys to the draft. And Babcock has changed the way this team plays. It spent year after year as one of the worst possession drivers in hockey and jumped to the middle of the pack in his first year as bench boss.