It’s not often that you see a team fire essentially half of its front office and coaching staff in one fell swoop, but then again, it’s not often you see a professional hockey team as bad as the Leafs.
As has been expected for a while now, the hammer came down this morning. The Toronto Maple Leafs have fired general manager Dave Nonis, coaches Peter Horachek, Steve Spott and Chris Dennis, and goaltending coach Rick St. Croix.
Steve Staios was one of the few non-Brendan Shanahan hires to survive the personnel changes, while Mark Hunter and Kyle Dubas will handle all interim GM duties.
For most, this is a positive change. For some, the wrong people were blamed.
Nonis. Carlyle. Poulin. Loiselle. Farrish. Cronin. Gordon. Spott. Horachek, St. Croix. All good people let down by underperforming players.
— steve simmons (@simmonssteve) April 12, 2015
Ok, deep breaths, people. Let’s break this down. More after the jump…
It’s fair to say that Leafs players underperformed this season, perhaps none more so than Phil Kessel.
Kessel was 6th in NHL scoring last season and dropped to 47th this year with 61 points in 82 games. He’s a supremely talented player who didn’t live up to lofty expectations. That’s ok. That happens.
The rest of the core wasn’t much better. Dion Phaneuf endured probably his worst season ever, both offensively and defensively. Joffrey Lupul barely played, and wasn’t effective when he did. Tyler Bozak is, well, Tyler Bozak
Nazem Kadri, Jake Gardiner, James van Riemsdyk… All good, young players, but none of them really took any significant steps forward in their development.
The goaltenders, Jonathan Bernier and James Reimer, could barely be called average. It’s hard to imagine that both are in the Leafs’ long term plans, but it’s hard to tell right now if either of them deserve to stick around.
Simmons has a point that many members of Toronto’s management and coaching staff were let down by the players mentioned above.
But, Simmons forgets to mention though that these were the men who built this team, trusted these players, signed them to expensive contracts and handcuffed the organization.
Let us please acknowledge the fact that Nonis had a large hand in assembling this core and signing them to significant, long-term deals. You can argue until you’re blue in the face as to whether or not Kessel and Phaneuf are worth their contracts, but at the end of the day, Nonis believed in them.
The most glaring mistake Nonis made was likely signing David Clarkson to an insanely rich, insanely long, and insanely dangerous contract. It was a miracle that Columbus not only found themselves in a worse position with Nathan Horton’s uninsured contract, but that they recognized a way out of it, and essentially handed the Leafs a Get Out Of Cap Hell card.
If you want to feel sorry for the second biggest fish to get friend today, Peter Horachek, I can get behind that.
Horachek had a solid resume coming from Nashville (and briefly Florida), and Leafs fans were largely happy to have him. But when Carlyle was fired and Shanahan decided to take the organization in a new, brighter direction, Horachek was put in a very uncomfortable and thankless position.
Horachek became the interim head coach of a team that seemed unable to play responsible hockey. Not only that, but the few players who did provide the team with some spark this season – Cody Franson, Mike Santorelli and Daniel Winnik – were traded away. Furthermore, Roman Polak and Stephane Robidas were both shut down for the season early. While neither of them were world beaters in any sense, Horachek could have certainly used them.
That being said, we need to acknowledge the fact that there were still some talented pieces left on the Leafs roster, and Horachek and Co. seemed unable to grab their attention and point them in the right direction. Horachek was always going to be fired, but before he was this morning, he didn’t do a whole hell of a lot to leave a lasting impression.
Nonis. Carlyle. Poulin. Loiselle. Farrish. Cronin. Gordon. Spott. Horachek. St. Croix.
All good people who built a terrible hockey team, and were fired accordingly.
And to the apologists, don’t worry. The players will answer for their roles in this soon enough.