With a big trade and a big contract for a goalie, a draft that saw the team take a number of over-agers, and a free agency that’s seen the team prioritize toughness, the Leafs have had one hell of a polarizing off-season.
In today’s roundtable we revisit the summer that’s been once more, with a look at the front office and what our writers make of management moving forward.
So, today’s question is: on a scale of not at all to Dave Nonis, how concerned are you about the Leafs front office moving forward?
For me, it’s difficult to relate to previous management regimes. I’ve never had this level of faith before. Relative to personal experience, I feel like my amps are set to eleven. However, there are still small issues that are arising, particularly lately. I’m not really losing faith, but just finding increasing reasons to question it. Overall, I’m still very excited for the future of this franchise, but the seemingly increasing hunt for toughness is reminiscent of the quest for “leadership” that followed the 2012-13 playoffs. The future is bright, unquestionably, so I’m giving them a “concern” rating of “amount of chemtrails in the air” out of Dave Nonis.
I’m definitely closer to “not at all” than Dave Nonis on the scale of concern about this front office, mainly because I think whichever way they lean in their approach will create a competitive team. That said, I do think there are some front office politics that will play out before Lou hands off the keys to the top role, and as a result the Leafs will lose some talented minds. But that was always going to be the case, and it happens to any team who creates a stable of respected hockey voices. I won’t hide from the fact I’m definitely questioning this group more now, as this summer has produced eyebrow-raising move or two, but overall I still have faith in Shanahan as an incredibly smart shot-caller, and as long as he’s around I’ll likely see promise in the overall direction of the club. Everything large scale still has to go through him. If, over the next year or so, they start doing things that mess with the younger core pieces instead of just insulating them, and make bigger decisions based on out-dated priorities, I’ll probably move that slider up to the Nonis end of things. I doubt that’s going to happen. This is going to be a very telling year coming up, both on the ice and off.
^ Like Fancey up there, I’m also a lot closer to the “not at all” level of concern than the “Dave Nonis” level of concern. Partially because I’m running on what a friend of mine calls ‘Defeatist Optimism’: No matter what Lou, Shanahan, Dubas, and Hunter do… the Leafs can’t possibly finish any worse than they did last year. We still have Gardiner, Rielly, Komarov, JVR, and Kadri still in play, as well as all our best prospects. I’m throwing in a bit of actual optimism for Brandon Prust. He’s not an outstanding player, by any means, but I do want to see him succeed, and a two-way contract (a REALLY cheap one) in Toronto could probably do that.However. I have been giving some of the front office moves a bit of the side-eye over the summer, and I’m not going to jump on the ‘Lou Has A Plan’ Train with blind faith. Some of those moves looked pretty sketch. If it turns out they work, and Lou did have a plan? Sweet. I’ll be the first to admit I was wrong. If not? Well. At least we have Matthews.
Concern Level: Low
I think it’s fair to say there have been questionable moves made this off-season but these transactions have taken place while still keeping our top 20 prospects intact. In that same vein, we still have Rielly, Gardiner, Kadri, JVR and Komarov. Ultimately, aside from acquiring a good goaltender in Frederik Andersen and promptly inking him to a five year deal, none of the moves made this off-season really affect the Leafs’ core.
Even if Brandon Prust exceeds expectations in his professional tryout and steals a roster spot from Hyman, Leipsic or Soshnikov, he’ll likely only play 40 games over the course of the season between healthy scratches. Stealing games from the kids wouldn’t be ideal but I think we’re very far away from Nonis land.
As much as I talk about never blindly trusting a sports front office, and as much as I micro-analyze just about every decision the team makes with the odd criticism along the way, I genuinely still think very highly of the big picture.In the span of two years, the Leafs have taken a below-average prospect pool and turned it into the absolute best in the game. An organization that craved a blue chip prospect now has three of them, with a few others who could be fringe sleepers. They may have added a couple that I’m not sold on, but I can’t think of a time in modern Leaf history that was more intriguing from a youth standpoint.The present looks much better too. Most of the cap weight has been lifted, with the leftovers fading away by the end of this season or next. I may not like every lineup choice that Mike Babcock makes, but the team is playing hockey that is modern to the eyeballs and to the stat sheet, and they’re developing a flavour of toughness that is closer to resilience than distractive aggression. Most of the big holes in the lineup have been solved, and I’m particularly optimistic for the improvements made on the right defensive side and in goal.There’s still work to be done, don’t get me wrong, and there are still ways that I personally feel they could do things a bit better. But the grass is the greenest it’s been in my own memory, and for the most part, front office seems to be making decisions with the team in mind more so than themselves as individuals.
What do you think? How concerned are you about the Leafs front office moving forward? Let us know in the comments!