Shanahan hints at extended rebuild: ‘There are no shortcuts to building a team the right way’

Does the rabid Toronto hockey market have the patience to endure a long Toronto Maple Leafs rebuild?

It would seem that we’re about to find out. In a letter that will be delivered on Wednesday and is addressed to Maple Leafs season ticket holders, Maple Leafs president of hockey operations vowed not to raise ticket prices for next season. He also suggested that road back to contention, or respectability at least, will be a long and arduous one.

“There are no shortcuts to building a team the right way,” Shanahan says in the letter. “It will require patience and a long-term view, but it is important for you to know that the process will be well worth it when we get there.”

There are no shortcuts in a rebuild? What did Shanahan miss the part where his club got out of jail free on David Clarkson’s contracts? In all seriousness, read past the jump.

The Toronto Star’s Kevin McGran has more of Shanahan’s quotes, in which he assuages the fans that Maple Leafs management hears and shares their disappointment and frustration.

“This city … deserves for this team to contend for the Stanley Cup each and every year,” Shanahan writes. “With that goal in mind, our purpose here is to build a team that you are proud to support. I have heard of your frustration this year and understand it.”

The Maple Leafs spent the past month tearing down the club. Everything that wasn’t nailed down – or in David Booth’s case, completely without value – was sold before the NHL trade deadline, and reports suggested that the Maple Leafs tried to do more. They’ll surely try again at the NHL Draft.

While declarations of a scorched earth rebuild seemed premature a month ago, and frankly they may be still, that Shanahan seems to be managing the expectations of fans – and preparing his paying customers to be patient as he plays the long game – is the clearest sign yet that a detonation of the flawed and failed core that Dave Nonis and Brian Burke constructed is coming. 

Now a city that has barely been able to tolerate the seemingly endless renovation of Union Station, may have to deal with another extended reconstruction project at Front and Bay. And yet, as restless as Toronto’s sports fans can be, it seems possible that Shanahan’s tougher test will be preaching patience to the MLSE board.

  • STAN

    If you’ve bled blue and white like me since you were in pre-school (THANKS DAD FOR A LIFETIME OF FRUSTRATION!!)… it’s almost impossible not be passionate about everything these guys do.

    Nonis, Phaneuf, Burke, Kessel and Shanahan are just the latest players in this timeless, Shakespearean tragedy / spectacle. All of them have contributed to Leafs Nation pain.

    It’s funny how many in Leafs Nation, including the majority of sports media, had nothing but praise for Dion Phaneuf for most of his time in TO – 354 games (so far) over parts of 6 seasons. After watching him to in Red Deer and Calgary (in person) as a top Rebel and and then for all of his time as a Calgary Flame (in person), it was clear to me that his WHL skills transferred nicely to the Big League, but only youth and adrenalin helped maintain that level for about 36 months. That’s it.

    In 2009-10 his skating was noticeably weaker, body checks softer and less effective, puck skills diminishing. It’s no coincidence that the much-maligned Darryl Sutter did his team a huge favour when he traded Phaneuf in the winter of 2010. It finally seemed to sink in to Sutter that this guy was not a leader, on or off the ice, not the Flames best defenseman (see Jay Bouwmeester) despite his 25 minutes a night, and was never going to lead them anywhere except to great tee times in April. That’s what has happened in Toronto, to a tee.

    After Montreal has a final laugh at this group on the final game of the season April 11th (win or lose that night), The Pylon and his buds can celebrate his slightly-belated 30th birthday with some four ball or beach time. Or both. If there has been one sure-fire fact it is that Toronto Maple Leafs have free time in April. Every season since the arrival of Phaneuf.

    As for what should happen on April 12th, Shanahan would be remiss if he didn’t tell Nonis to hit the road to Calgary. That way Dave can see the kids through school in June, keep collecting MLSE paycheques and find a nice house in Cowtown as he settles in as a new executive something-or-other with the Flames. Then Shanahan should tell Horachek “thanks for your service, but you’re free to explore all options, including a possible assistant coaching job under a new Leafs head coach”.

    The core? I think I build it around Rielly, Kadri, Leo, JvR, Holland and possibly Bernier. The oldest guy is Leo at 28. Perhaps Erixon, just 24, fits a new-look D along with Gardiner (24) and Percy, Loov and Nilsson, not to mention Nylander and hopefully a potential number one centre in this June’s draft. Plus, who knows what they’ll get back for Phaneuf, Lupul, Bozak and possibly Kessel. I think unless someone blows them away, Phil might be worth keeping for one more go-round with new line mates.

    Continued futility was assured the day Brian Burke vowed one thing and did another – a five-year plan that he discarded less than a year later, trading away two first round picks and one second round pick for the one-dimensional, non-truculent Kessel.

    Moreover, Leafs fans might forget that Burke’s first hire, a week after assuming his GM gig, was Dave Nonis. So Nonis has been there for more than five years, has compounded his old buddy’s mistakes and has personally cost MLSE more than $50M in mistakes – Grabovski, Clarkson, Komisarek, Gleason, MacArthur. It’s disgraceful and indefensible. In any other business, he’d have been gone long ago, likely never to be given that kind of responsibility again.

    The only real question is whether Shanahan’s total lack of executive experience can actually translate into some sort of success.

    Whatever happens over the next seven months we should know whether there is any Toronto Maple Leafs future other than blindly raking in cash.

    • Dan

      I love how these guys come on here and write novels. I don’t think many readers on here care for the story telling. Why don’t you just cheer for another team instead of being bitter all the time? Seems healthier tbh.

      • TGT23

        You sure told that Stan guy Dan. I mean why should he be bitter after all Dan you got 7 playoff games in the past decade what more could you ask for Dan. Say Dan in life do you enjoy being in the cellar, being a freaking loser every year. Don’t you desire to be above mediocrity Dan or do you just accept a non playoff team year after year. You TRULY ARE THE PERFECT FAN THAT M.L.S.E. SIMPLY LOVES TO FREAKING RIP OFF. WAY TO GO DAN.

        • TGT23

          I can’t believe I’m going to say this…… But, I agree with what’s48years…

          There are passionate fans on all sides, and Stan’s rant (in this case) isn’t unfair. I don’t think he’s right, I don’t agree with his side in all aspects of the rant, but in this case it isn’t unfair to take the side he has taken.

          For me, IMO, I think so long as you are being fair with your interpretation (by that I mean basing opinions on factual things that can be quantified and demonstrated through stats or evidence), if you are not ignorant and can form a coherent thought, have at it.

          We’re in for FIVE years of frustration, and that’s if we’re incredibly lucky and the rebuild goes quickly. Everyone will need to vent occasionally.

          • STAN

            Wow TG I take back what I said in the other posting. Heh I totally agree the truth some times is terrible. Now I hate to admit this but I’m starting to admit that the analytics help to some degree. However I think it only represents a small proportion in deciding on who you draft or trade for.

            Let me give you an example. You can have a defenceman who plays against the best lines every night. The stats are not that impressive in his possession game. This player gets traded to a very good defensive team but moves back to the second defensive unit. Thus he doesn’t face the best scorers on the other team. Presto all the corsi, fenwick and other stats improve. Heh its nothing personal with you we just often agree to disagree.

            I mean it would indeed be cool to have a blog similar to Raptor blogs where the only concern is that the team is only 16 games above 500. As you state it might take 5 long painful years but hopefully the leafs will reach that level and we can actually debate the positive aspects of the club.

          • TGT23

            That first paragraph is exactly what pretty much all the analytic crowd (aside from the vocal extreme minority) have ever tried to say.

            It is a tool. It helps. You can’t make every decision ONLY with analytics just like you can’t make every decision with only the eye test. And there are always outliers.

            I will say that the example you gave I believe is actually taken care of within Corsi or Fenwick. I’m fairly certain there are numbers relative to strength of opponent. But, the overarching point you are making we can agree. There is no ONE way to perfectly scout a player or build a team. There are however many, many tools a GM/scouts can use.

            And most tools, if used and understood correctly, can be put into proper context and assist the process. So, all I’m saying, is use every tool available and use them and understand them correctly and success should follow.

            Let’s hope Shanny, Hunter, and Dubas use every tool (and I think they will, they are three very different minds) and we can get out of this hell hole soon.

          • STAN

            T.G. solid points as usual. Maybe it is the fact spring is out here on the west coast. But I seem to be turning over a new leaf. I’m becoming a candidate for the Lady Byng trophy of posting in here. What is happening to me. But in all seriousness, comments in the past have never been personal and we both want to rise from the titanic back to respectablity for the leafs.

          • TGT23

            Wow TG I take back what I said in the other posting. Heh I totally agree the truth some times is terrible. Now I hate to admit this but I’m starting to admit that the analytics help to some degree. However I think it only represents a small proportion in deciding on who you draft or trade for.

            Let me give you an example. You can have a defenceman who plays against the best lines every night. The stats are not that impressive in his possession game. This player gets traded to a very good defensive team but moves back to the second defensive unit. Thus he doesn’t face the best scorers on the other team. Presto all the corsi, fenwick and other stats improve. Heh its nothing personal with you we just often agree to disagree.

            I mean it would indeed be cool to have a blog similar to Raptor blogs where the only concern is that the team is only 16 games above 500. As you state it might take 5 long painful years but hopefully the leafs will reach that level and we can actually debate the positive aspects of the club.

  • TGT23

    the least they can do is lower the damn tickets if we’re going to watch failure and basement dwellers for the next 3-5 years. charging the most in the league for a team that picks top 10 every year is a joke. i hope fans stop going to games and mlse has no choice but to plummet ticket prices. i want the acc to look like a panthers game unless it’s for the raptors.

  • STAN

    @Dan is hilarious.

    I thought this WAS / IS a ‘writing’ site. Y’know, a place for intelligent discourse. In print. With words. Sentences. Paragraphs. Punctuation.

    Dan, if you despise the push and pull of actual, long time fans, perhaps the place for you is Vine – six seconds of sometime-clever, but mostly mindless video.

    The opening lines of Thomas’s article are, “Does the rabid Toronto hockey market have the patience to endure a long Toronto Maple Leafs rebuild? It would seem that we’re about to find out.”

    I suppose it could also read, “Does TLN have the patience to think beyond six-second blurbs?”

    I think it does.

    P-S Thanks to @What’s48years and @TGT23 for their differing, perceptive and respectful opinions.

  • STAN

    So… 6-7 years of poor winning percentage but a steady increase in quality of play and hope of eventual success or 6-7 years of poor winning percentage, buying free agent saviours just after they expire, giving up on anyone who shows a spark and no hope of the playoffs?

    Aside from the loss of comedy gold, this fan is fine with a long rebuild.