Brendan Shanahan the Best Thing to Happen to the Toronto Maple Leafs

The Toronto Maple Leafs are one of the worst franchises in pro sports and that’s why we love them so much.

It wouldn’t be fun to just win and have tons of success all the time, and the Toronto Maple Leafs know it. That’s why they’ve teased, tormented, and let down for 55 years. Always doing just enough to keep you coming back, but never satisfying.

The flaws of this franchise have been known for a long time.

Harold Ballard was an idiot and he ruined any chance of success after the expansion, the 70’s were bad but the 80’s were an absolute joke and the team made one terrible decision after another.

Sometimes it got better, but just enough to keep you coming back for more.

After losing the chance to have Joe Sakic, Wayne Gretzky, Scott Niedermeyer, Eric Lindros, Robert Luongo, Tukka Rask, Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton all due to massive, unbelievable incompetence, the Toronto Maple Leafs had had enough and hired Brendan Shanahan.

Toronto Maple Leafs: The Brendan Shanahan Era

Aside from two Cliff Fletcher years in the ’90s and maybe three good Pat Quinn years earlier in the ’00s, there’s no evidence the Leafs hired a single non-moron to run their team until Brendan Shanahan showed up.

Remember when they had four GMs and one of them was Ken Dryden for some reason? Remember how John Ferguson Jr. showed that anyone with a pulse can run a pro hockey team? And let’s not forget Brian Burke, who thought he could turn arrogance into a Stanley Cup like a mad alchemist. And try as we may, for some reason we can’t forget his beige assistant, Dave Nonis.

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This team was absolute garbage for about 90% of the time between the original expansion and the hiring of Brendan Shanahan. Not a single major individual award, not a single finalist and not even a superstar who could be counted among the best in the world.

(All due respect to Darryl Sitler, Lanny McDonald, Wendel Clark, Doug Gilmour, Mats Sundin and Phil Kessel, who are legends in their own right but have never been “generational” talent).

But Brendan Shanahan changed all that.

He had the guts to fill his tank and bring the Toronto Maple Leafs not one, but two franchise players, both of whom will eventually go down as the top two players in team history.

Sure, we didn’t see the playoff success that we want, expect and hope, but just the fact that this team has a plan and is following it, regardless of what the media says, is good enough for me.

People keep asking me why I’m so supportive of a GM and President who didn’t win anything. They think I’m some kind of creep, but I kept tearing up the sheets – when I thought they deserved it.

Under Dubas and Shanahan, I never thought they deserved it.

This team is the best version of the Toronto Maple Leafs I’ve ever seen. They’ve been one of the best teams in the NHL since the day they fired Mike Babcock, and while they didn’t actually win, they put themselves in a good position to do so.

And that’s all you can ask.

Bounces don’t always go your way. Luck is an important factor in a short tournament (which the playoffs are).

I’m not saying the Leafs’ only fault is bad luck, but they’ve been the better team on expected goals in 16 of their last 19 playoff games.

My point is this: The Toronto Maple Leafs had Toronto Media as their co-GM for almost 55 years, and they hired, fired, and drove players out of town at their whim.

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Shanahan put an end to that, and because he did, the Toronto media has been vicious and totally biased in its assessment of the Kyle Dubas/Brendan Shanahan era. The old school media in this town has never quite recovered from its failure to trade in William Nylander, but I think the team is in good hands.

Giving in to fan and media whims for 50 years was a recipe for failure. Now that the team isn’t making frivolous, knee-jerk moves, they’re much better. The bad luck with the results won’t last forever.

Literally every complaint about Shanahan or Dubas prompts the Leafs to go back to doing things they’ve been doing for 50 years (pushing unpopular players out of town, listening to Steve Simmonds, overrating checkers, buying UFAs they don’t need, etc.) .

Personally, I think fans of an Original Six team should be smart enough to look beyond the results to a process that clearly works. The Toronto Maple Leafs are entering the 2022-23 season with the best roster in the NHL and as favorites to win the Stanley Cup.

Do I wish we had already won? Of course I do, but that’s good enough for now.

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