Over the past couple of seasons, the Toronto Maple Leafs have been one of the league’s most toxic teams. Players have feuded with the media and been accused of quitting on their coaches to send a message. However, with Brendan Shanahan in charge, there is a new sheriff sending messages.
When Shanahan took over the Leafs, his mission was clear: to find players that would be proud to wear the blue and white and work their bottoms off to help the team win. Given some of the large personalities he walked into in Toronto, it was bound to be a difficult task.
As of late the Maple Leafs players were given freedom to reign as they pleased for the most part. There wasn’t much accountability, and collapsing late in the year became the norm for a team that was not mentally tough to make it through an 82-game schedule. It became a pattern for the Leafs and somewhat of a joke around the league.
With the hiring of Lou Lamoriello and Mike Babcock, Shanahan proved he’s finally ready to battle. Both hirings give the Leafs credibility off the ice and go a long way in changing the current culture on the ice and in the locker-room. This is no longer a team run by the players.
It’s clear as mud that Shanahan’s plan in his first offseason with the buds was to change the culture in Toronto. Lamoriello will help push that along. That was made clear during his first press conference. His word, from ProHockeyTalk:
“We are trying to create [an environment] where the players are willing to give up their own identity for that logo on the front. Never mixing what’s on the back of the jersey with what’s on the front.”
With the New Jersey Devils, Lamoriello was a strict manager who demanded that his team upheld traditions. Whether it was not having any beard’s outside of the playoffs or not assigning certain numbers, the Devils held a long-standing history full of tradition.
He helped the Devils create their own identity and by holding players to high standards.
The Leafs are looking to assemble a squad that takes pride in their game. A group that comes to the rink every night to play hard for their teammates and the fans. The culture change in Toronto was kicked off by Shanahan and grew more apparent with the hiring of a well respected Babcock.
Now with Lamoriello in town, that shift has come full circle in Toronto.
Next season players will need to check their inflated ego’s at the door as many have things to prove. For Nazem Kadri, this will be his last chance to impress the Leafs’ brass and for others, how they perform on the ice and for the greater good of the team will be a huge factor in whether they stay with the Leafs are get kicked off the train at the first stop.
If a player isn’t willing to play for his teammates and the greater good for their team, then Lamoriello won’t have them on his team for long.
Next year’s Maple Leafs will be asked to step outside their comfort zone and give it all for the logo on the front and their teammates. Players will be held accountable for their behavior and if one crosses the line it won’t be long before a solution is found. The changes in Leafs management this offseason serve as a sobering reminder for the players that they no longer run this team.