Maple Leafs need an overhaul but is Brad Treliving the right man for the job?

Photo credit:Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Jon Steitzer
1 month ago
Throughout the season the moves made by Brad Treliving have come under a fair bit of scrutiny. The John Klingberg signing was a complete disaster, there’s no other way of looking at it, and both Ryan Reaves and Tyler Bertuzzi had terrible starts to their time with the Leafs. His wait-and-see approach on Nylander likely cost the Maple Leafs at least another $1M over what he could have been signed for in the summer, but at the same time there were a lot of questionable moves by Kyle Dubas that deserve similar scrutiny, and with the Leafs supposedly being built for the playoffs, now is the time that it seems fair to judge Brad Treliving’s work.
There’s a counterpoint to criticisms of Brad Treliving. When he showed up his hands were tied when it came to Sheldon Keefe. Brendan Shanahan supposedly wanted to keep Keefe. By the time Treliving was familiar with the Leafs’ personnel, the coach market was past the point of clear upgrades being available. There was criticism about the lack of prospects and cap space for Treliving to work with, which is largely true. On the other hand, the cost of joining a competitive team is that you don’t start with the resources of a rebuilding team. The cap space situation was decent, and the luxury of picking Easton Cowan was there for him.
The biggest drawback for Treliving is that he had seen the Leafs from a distance and was trusting the opinions of staff that he wasn’t fully familiar with either. The past year has established relationships and Treliving has formed his opinions. You’d hope that Treliving isn’t the guy who would blindly give David Kampf a four-year deal on the strength of a Leafs’ coaching staff saying they love their bottom-six centre. He is still the guy who attempted the bandage solution of Joel Edmundson and Ilya Lyubushkin to fix the Leafs’ defence.
Every General Manager has some questionable decisions in their history and Treliving’s time in Toronto hasn’t inspired confidence. His time in Calgary hasn’t inspired much confidence either. The zig-zagging trajectory of the Flames throughout Treliving’s time there that ended in a mass exodus of star talent doesn’t say, “I should handle the remainder of Auston Matthews’ cup window.”
Brendan Shanahan’s fate should be intertwined with Brad Treliving’s. If the President of Hockey Operations is relieved of his duties should his replacement be mandated to let Brad Treliving run with things, despite potentially conflicting ideologies? Or is Treliving not the issue and the Leafs suffered from Shanahan’s direction? Throughout Shanahan’s time spending money on stars was the norm and did his “just get it done” approach lead to the salaries for Matthews and Nylander? More than likely Shanahan and Treliving share blame and if a change is made at the President level, Treliving would be dealing with a very hands-on boss, which might be good enough for moving the Leafs forward.
The Leafs are foreshadowing that change is coming. Putting the players and Sheldon Keefe in the line of fire on Monday but offering zero insight on who from management will be made available three days later. Speculation has predominantly been that it will be so they can address what seems like the inevitable firing of Sheldon Keefe, but it could just as easily be the best of who is left of the front office, Keith Pelley, or even potentially the introduction of the new guys coming in after aggressively cleaning house. History says it will either be a combination of those or a very boring explanation like Brad Treliving getting over a stomach bug.
If Brad Treliving is the Leafs General Manager beyond this week the Leafs will benefit from Treliving coming at the job with increased organizational knowledge and also with the experience where he came up short. If the Leafs are heading in a new direction it needs to come with the warning that there are no guarantees they are an upgrade and they too might want to take a year assessing what the Leafs are.

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