April 15 2014 05:20AM
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.
Shanahan asked about analytics: "If there's information out there and you ignore that, that's a mistake by you."— James Mirtle (@mirtle) April 14, 2014
Shanahan "I'm an open minded person. I spent my flight to Toronto reading about Fenwick and Corsi"— Hope_Smoke (@Hope_Smoke) April 14, 2014
Shanahan "people who just put their hands up to analytics and says they're not interested they're doing themselves a disservice"— Hope_Smoke (@Hope_Smoke) April 14, 2014
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.
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.