When an organization like the Leafs undergoes a major overhaul from top to bottom, there are big headlines that come with it. The hiring of future management superstar Kyle Dubas. The hiring of one of the best coaches in hockey. Having an exceptional, potentially franchise-altering draft. Trading your best player to change the culture.
Those are the things that create good PR, that signal to most fans that change is occurring, and it’s for the better. But franchise and culture shock doesn’t stop there. It continues throughout every facet of the organization.
This week, the Leafs started their annual prospect camp. With it comes a tremendous amount of excitement. The future looks really bright in Toronto, with William Nylander, Mitch Marner, and Kasperi Kapanen headlining one of the most talented prospect pools in the league. A rarity for the Leafs.
While prospects may be stealing the headlines right now, it’s one of the more under-the-radar moves of the offseason that plays the most crucial role at these camps.
On June 5th, Scott Pellerin was promoted to Director of Player Development. The importance of this can’t be stated enough – you can draft all the talent you want, but it’s only as good as how you develop it. That’s why the methodology behind camp needed to shift as well.
In his chat with the media
today, Pellerin outlined how the Leafs are using the prospect camp, and it is refreshing to hear.
It’s July, we’re not here to evaluate guys, we’re here to help them learn how to be a pro. We want to share. All the ice stuff is a bonus. We’re teaching them how to lift, we’re teaching them how to eat, we’re teaching them how to talk to you guys, we’re teaching them how to be a pro.
Lifting, eating, and talking to media – three things that Phil Kessel wasn’t exactly known for. Hearing Pellerin talk about this seems to make it even more clear that Phil didn’t fit the criteria that the Leafs are looking for in their current and future pros – a criteria that Mike Babcock has also mentioned in interviews since behind hired. In fact, not only has Babcock talked about it, but Kyle Dubas talked about it when meeting the media today as well.
Pellerin isn’t just designing a program that helps these prospects become pros off-the-ice, but on it as well.
We’ve had some communication obviously with Mike Babcock with what he wants, what style of player he wants and we’ve designed this camp to bring out that performance in these players. That’s why we’re doing it.
Whether rightly or wrongly, the Leafs are obviously treating Babcock’s word as gospel. Whether that will haunt them in the long-run remains to be seen, but it’s hard to argue against an organization being completely in sync from top to bottom.
Pellerin also reiterated the importance of patience from both the organization and the prospects, and mentioned that Peter Holland – who seems to have taken a leadership role this offseason with his community involvement – was brought in by Babcock to talk to the prospects.
Yesterday we talked and Peter Holland happened to be working out upstairs and Mike Babcock grabbed him. You look at guys, they have different timelines, there’s different development in the process. Some guys are going to be faster than others, some guys it’ll take them five years.
This organization is developing an identity. It started with the hiring of Kyle Dubas. It continued with the hiring of Mike Babcock. And it will proceed into the future with the work done by Scott Pellerin and these prospects.