Lessons Learned?


I haven’t had much to say about the Leafs’ recent hiring of Brendan Shanahan as the team’s president and “alternate governor”, since it’s tough to have an opinion on a guy who hasn’t run an NHL club in any capacity in the past. However, after Monday’s press conference, where the new boss was introduced to fans and media, the interviews have been non-stop from both “Shanny” and the man who hired him, MLSE president Tim Leiweke. 

It’s been clear since news broke of Shanahan’s hiring that he will now be the go-to for all major decisions, basically stepping in to keep Nonis and his crew in check until he eventually pulls the trigger and sends them packing. We don’t know how long that will take, but right now it appears as though if Nonis wants to make a big signing or trade, Shanahan will be heavily involved the whole way. Leiweke admits he isn’t much of a hockey guy himself, and the fact that he doesn’t see Nonis as being enough of a hockey guy to run things on his own should speak volumes. Fingers crossed for more changes soon.

We’ve been anxious to get an idea of where Shanahan’s head is at, how he might approach the mess the Leafs are in, and, of course, his thoughts on analytics in player and team evaluation. After a boring opening to the press conference where he was introduced, the questions began to roll in for Shanny and co., both at the presser and on radio later in the day. Some of the responses may surprise you.

All encouraging quotes, but will it translate to real change with the Leafs and their approach? Shanahan isn’t saying he’s strictly a numbers guy by any means, but that was never what we, as fans, bloggers, and simply folks who want to learn more about the game, were ever asking for. We want someone in charge who seems to think about the game in more ways than one, to pay attention to the way other successful teams in the league are going about their business. Nonis and Carlyle clearly aren’t doing that. In fact, given the way Leafs management have responded to questions about their blatant weaknesses over the past couple seasons, they actually seem to be going in the opposite direction. 

Just a couple weeks back, in midst of the collapse, Dave Poulin weighed in on the analytics discussion in typical Dave Poulin fashion.

From Tyler Dellow at mc79hockey:

Dave Poulin went on TSN 1050 today and was asked about whether maybe, just maybe, there might be something to this analytics claptrap. Response? “Our shot differential over the last 8 games is better. So the analytics talk doesn’t make a lot of sense.” Hoo boy. You see, one of the fundamental tenets of analytics is that teams play differently when they’re leading or trailing a game and that it shows up in their shot counts. This is not a new idea. It has been around for years. If the Maple Leafs are publicly rejecting the utility of analytics (and they have, repeatedly), you would expect that they would be familiar with the concepts. They don’t seem to be.

If the Leafs are going to turn things around, Shanahan will have to approach these guys, like Poulin, and change their thinking, or simply get rid of them. And it isn’t that these guys need to hit the internet and start reading everything about Corsi and Fenwick, something as simple as being outshot 65 times in an 82-game season should be enough to let you know you’re doing it all wrong. If Shanahan is willing to dig in and find answers as to why that happened, it’s a start.

  • cambosmash

    They will learn nothing. Shanny will join and quickly be assimilated into let’s tinker to build a playoff team rather then a cup team. Leiweke is good with this because he wants out in a couple years.

    We are better with Shanny at the head then Nonis but we should not be fooled that this is not a good team. And that management won’t make the changes to build a cup team.

  • STAN

    Numbers schmumbers.

    YES advanced analytics are essential in modern pro sports, but surely the human eye and common sense can tell you just as much as you need to know; this guy makes bad passes, this guy just gets rid of the puck within a second or two of getting it, this guy is slow, this guy is lousy without the puck – always out of position, etc.

    The number crunchers will always support the conclusions of a decent coach/GM/President/King/Messiah.

    Most thoughtful hockey fans can clearly see how dysfunctional the current Leafs are, from allowing a record number of shots in an 82 game season (2,945), an average of 35.91 per contest… to constantly hanging their goaltenders out to dry by allowing a probable-record number of odd-man rushes. These Keystone Kops are lead by Dion Phaneuf, a man who DOES NOT LEAD BY EXAMPLE. It’s shameful. And TLN can thank Burkie, Nonis Carlyle and the rest of the ridiculously obese management bunch, all FOB (Friends of Burke).

    As for “Shanny”, he’s been gifted a fantastic, high-paying job and yet he has NO track record in running anything from close to the top. Nice work if you can get it.

    Other than playing with good teams and great coaches, The Shan Man’s only claim to fame is doling out punishment to hockey players. This is not rocket science. Some (but certainly not enough) media types have mildly criticized his player penalties as “inconsistent”, but most usually become instant apologists for him by claiming it’s a “hard job”.

    The coronations of “Trev” in Vancouver, “Sack” on Colorado, “Neels” in Beantown and now “Shanny” in Toronto are nothing more than lipstick on a pig – NHL types trying to put friendly, likeable faces on their inept, blundering managers.

    That management is stuffed with members of the OCB (Old Boys Club)… and fans should not be hoodwinked into thinking it will ever change.

  • Bob Canuck


    If “the human eye and common sense can tell you just as much as you need to know”, how can advanced analytics be essential? Your statement implies that advanced analytics are unnecessary.

  • jasken

    Shanny will find out if the system in place is flawed or if players didn’t implement it properly. I am betting on players unwillingness to play the system and go back to Ron Wilson’s free for all system. The system Carlyle was trying to implement at times was there but then there was nothing.

    This is normal as when we are uncomfortable with change we fall back on what were used too. In order for this team to be a successful defensive team the people who cant buy in to the system and implement it have to be moved if that means Kessel, Phaneuf, Franson, Orr, Bozak whoever. If the system is flawed and Carlyle cant come up with a new one, replace him with coach who can.

    As for Stan the troll up there really should read up on Shanny not only was he the ring leader in changing the flow and tempo of the game during 04-05 lockout leading shanahan’s summit which included coaches players and all kinds of influential people in hockey to improve hockey. He was VP of Hockey Business and Operations 2009

    Lastly he knows hockey players and is respected by them. People should be behind this guy 100% he is not just some pretty face he’s got smarts he’s not some guy who is gonna go out build a team on analytics but with talent that will make Leafs respectable. I am surprised he actually became Leaf’s President and alternate governor if he was meaning to do something special and leave a legacy this would be the place. Let’s sit back and see what the prez can do.