To start, a prediction: There’ll come a day quickly when Brendan Shanahan will look again wistfully on the period that resulted in Might 2018 and say to himself, “Yikes. Remember when life at the office was easy?”
Till this month, in any case, Shanahan occupied some of the enticing gigs in professional sports activities. As crew president of his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs, he was getting loads of credit score for a current aggressive renaissance. And but Shanahan was additionally gifted with layers of self-installed, headache-reducing insulation. GM Lou Lamoriello, the last word in self-driven, big-presence crew runners, was taking good care of a lot of the particulars. Head coach Mike Babcock did a lot of the public messaging. And the roster, younger and up-and-coming, principally glad even the oft-delusional expectations of the game’s most rabid fan base. When issues went effectively, it was all a part of the Shana-plan. And after they didn’t — effectively, belief the Shana-plan. It was the perfect of occasions. However these occasions are over.
When 32-year-old Kyle Dubas was named the 17th common supervisor in membership historical past Friday, Shanahan’s work life acquired much more sophisticated. Abruptly he’s not just the crew president. He’s additionally the in-office referee.
There are NHL lifers, in any case, who consider Dubas’s largest impending problem isn’t negotiating contracts for Auston Matthews et al, nor plugging the gaping holes at centre and proper defence. Dubas’s largest impending problem is managing Babcock. It’s anticipated Shanahan will quickly sufficient discover himself mediating disputes between the newly put in GM and the 55-year-old coach. Although born many years aside, the GM and coach share in frequent an ageless self-assurance and infrequently disparate views of the definition of a handsome lineup.
Stated one NHL supply, imagining the result of the interaction: “(Babcock) is going to run roughshod over Dubas.”
That might be an exaggeration for impact. But it surely’s not a stretch to counsel the Dubas-Babcock relationship may require a sophisticated little bit of administration from Shanahan. Just three years into an eight-year deal that pays an annual common wage of $6.25 million, Babcock isn’t some disposable coach, even when he has misplaced seven of his previous eight playoff sequence. So it’s removed from a coincidence that Shanahan gave Dubas a five-year contract, matching the remaining time period on Babcock’s deal. Babcock, one supply stated, sometimes lorded his deal over Lamoriello, who was on a three-year time period as GM.
Maybe that’s a part of the explanation why even the 75-year-old Lamoriello, along with his controlling tendencies, was sometimes swayed by Babcock’s persistent lobbying for roster adjustments. The 2016 free-agent signing of Matt Martin was partly a product of the coach’s ceaseless insistences, based on a number of league sources. Now it’s as much as Dubas to determine what to do with Martin, who can’t get right into a recreation regardless of two years pending at a cap hit of $2.5 million a season. Nonetheless, if not for Lamoriello’s hockey-godfather steadfastness, it’s assumed Babcock would have tried to exert much more management.
None of which is to say Dubas isn’t geared up to push again. The NHL is overdue for contemporary blood within the govt ranks. And Dubas is as a lot a rink rat as anybody, having begun working for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds at age 11 earlier than climbing the ladder to scout at 17 and GM at 25.
Nonetheless, there are some across the league studying Dubas’s ascension as Shanahan wanting too badly for a protege to succeed regardless of purple flags. Toronto’s succession plan, in idea, made sense. Rent Dubas. Herald Lamoriello to mentor Dubas. Elevate Dubas. However except “mentor” is a synonym for “marginalize,” a key step in Dubas’s improvement was basically skipped. Working the AHL Marlies, Dubas’s Lamoriello-imposed gig earlier than this one, isn’t precisely ideally suited coaching for working the Leafs. However being Lou’s proper hand wasn’t an choice. Assistant GM Mark Hunter acquired nearer to Lamoriello than Dubas. However Hunter fell quick in his push for GM and has not responded to requests for remark.
You can also make a case the Leafs are repeating a mistake of their not-so-distant previous by hiring a 30-something rookie GM. Former Maple Leaf Sports activities and Leisure CEO Richard Peddie appointed a 36-year-old named John Ferguson Jr. in 2003 and lived to remorse it.
“Yeah, (Toronto) is not a great place to start,” Peddie stated, talking over the telephone this week.
Peddie, who cited the crushing weight of expectation because the No. 1 obstacle to success in Leafland, appeared not less than barely amused to see historical past repeating itself. However the ex-CEO identified key variations. For one, Peddie figured it’s vital that Dubas is an inside rent (versus Ferguson, who got here from away).
“If they did go outside, it would cause serious issues inside,” Peddie stated.
For one more: “Ferguson never had a Shanahan.”
Certainly, whereas Peddie had hoped Ferguson would profit from the worldly mentorship of Pat Quinn, the Leafs coach, that relationship by no means developed. Quinn, it turned out, harboured onerous emotions about being stripped of the GM’s gig to make manner for Ferguson. How was a CEO to know?
In any occasion, as Peddie can attest, these coach-GM conflicts had been counterproductive, and evidently homicide on the on-ice file. Not lengthy after Ferguson arrived, the Leafs missed the playoffs 10 years out of 11.
At the moment’s Leafs are positioned much better than they had been upon Ferguson’s arrival. So possibly all of it works out. Possibly Hunter’s emotions received’t matter. Possibly Shanahan will be confirmed proper and Dubas will determine ingenious methods to placate Babcock’s ego. These are maybes. What we are able to say with extra certainty is that it in all probability received’t be lengthy till the person behind the Shana-plan finds himself pining for the Shana-past. The crew president’s job just acquired more durable.