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As another wasted and difficult to watch Toronto Maple Leafs season stumbles zombie-like towards the finish line, general manager Dave Nonis’ job security remains something of an elephant in the room.
Will the veteran executive be back with the club next season? It’s impossible to know and there isn’t much in the way of confident reports or credible rumblings out in the ether to help guide us. What’s left is expectations, conjecture and tea leaves, and perhaps that’s by design.
In his weekly column on Sunday, Ottawa Sun columnist Bruce Garrioch shared his belief that Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan will do what many expected he would last spring, and clean house. On the topic of whether that forthcoming spring cleaning effort will include replacing Nonis though, Garricoh is agnostic:
Expect the Maple Leafs to make sweeping changes. The belief is the time has come for Brendan Shanahan to put his stamp on the organization after only changing the assistant coaches and assistant GMs last year. Interim coach Peter Horachek hasn’t gotten the job done and the jury is out on whether GM Dave Nonis returns.
That Horachek is likely on his way out after this season is a surprise to precisely no one, considering the club’s atrocious record since he replaced Randy Carlyle in early January. Nonis’ status is a bit harder to figure out, as Garrioch admits, but surely no changes can count as ‘sweeping’ so long as the architect of the club’s misguided, calamitous summer of 2013 remains.
While Garrioch waits for his jury, there are those in the Toronto market who are reading signs and suggesting – quite convincingly, I might add – that the club’s underlying posture is hinting at Nonis remaining in place as the general manager of the Maple Leafs.
“All indications are that Dave Nonis is going to stick around,” explained TSN’s Darren Dreger during an appearance TSN 1050 on Wednesday. “They’re going through the planning meetings as they would coming to the conclusion of any regular season. They’re looking at coverage for the under-18s, they’re looking at the draft…
“Those meetings are under way, they’re continuing, Shanahan is actively involved in that with Dave Nonis. That doesn’t sound to me like a relationship that is about to severed.”
No, it really doesn’t.
It’s also difficult to argue with the reasoning in this column addressing the issue from the Toronto Sun’s Mike Zeisberger:
If Nonis was on the chopping block, critics have wondered why he would be allowed to architect the trade deadline deals last month that are seen as being key to the rebuild of the Leafs franchise?
And if Nonis’ days were numbered with the organization, why would he reportedly be part of the organization’s strategy sessions that have also included team president Brendan Shanahan and other management types?
Until a formal announcement is made, nothing is etched in stone when it comes to a Maple Leafs organization that seems to produce more sidebars — and side shows — than any other franchise in the league. Still, at least looking at the entire situation as a whole, there certainly are enough signals to allow observers to conclude that the Leafs are leaning toward bringing back Nonis to run the show one more time.
Another potentially relevant data point is that Nonis was out scouting a playoff matchup between the Erie Otters and the Sarnia Sting this week. So as far as anybody can tell Nonis remains intimately involved in shaping and informing the club’s direction in some capacity.
That’s worth something, but we’d do well to remember that things can change in a hurry in this industry. Perhaps the signs that Dreger and Zeisberger are interpreting are noise rather than signal. Maybe Nonis will still be treated to the old ‘Colangelo shuffle’ – in which he’s replaced as general manager but invited to remain with the club in some capacity – after all.
With roughly 10 days remaining until Maple Leafs players clean out their locker room and one of Shanahan or Nonis (or possibly both, which would tell us everything we need to know) face the microphones and the accompanying music, the near radio silence on confident reporting about Nonis’ future is almost unnerving.
Or it would be if it wasn’t consistent with Shanahan’s usual modus operandi. Think about it: when Shanahan was the NHL’s disciplinary Tsar how many times did the details of a particular Shanaban leak prior to the @NHLPlayerSafety account tweeting the news?
This general air of inscrutability has carried over into Shanahan’s Maple Leafs tenure too. The dearth of information in recent months has been almost jarring, frankly, in comparison with how Nonis and his predecessor Brian Burke conducted business in Toronto.
In March, no reporters got anything close to a sniff of the Nathan Horton for David Clarkson deal before it was officially announced. It took hours after the passing of the trade deadline for anyone to get the details of the Korbinian Holzer trade.
Compare that to the play-by-play we were treated to in the wake of the aborted Roberto Luongo for Ben Scrivens deal at the 2013 trade deadline…
In recent years Shanahan has proven in a variety of executive roles that he runs a remarkably tight ship, and we would do well to remember it and be wary of reading too much into anything regarding his offseason plans. We’ll know what’s next for the Maple Leafs when he wants us too.