When Dave Nonis took over the General Manager duties from Brian Burke in 2013 things were a lot different for the Toronto Maple Leafs. There was $20 million in cap space, several young and promising players were signed to reasonable contracts with the blue and white and there was potential for the playoffs. Fast forward to today and there is a very different tone in Leaf land.
Nonis leaves his two-year tenure as Leafs GM with peanuts in cap space, no head coach, money wasted on big contracts and a long rebuild on the horizon. Thanks for the memories, Nonis.
Unfortunately his tenure with the Leafs will not be remembered as an overly successful time. What started with promise ended in turmoil after the Leafs went 11-35-5 over their last 51 games, earning just 27 of 102 possible points to fall from a playoff spot. It might be hard to remember, but yes indeed the Maple Leafs were at one point in time inside the playoff picture.
Instead of participating in the postseason, the Leafs are getting ready for Brendan Shanahan is calling a “patient rebuild” as they anxiously await to see if they can land Connor McDavid in the upcoming NHL draft.
Despite getting the Leafs back into the postseason during the lockout shortened 2013 NHL season, Nonis was let go after two very rocky campaigns in Toronto. The writing seemed to be on the wall for Nonis after Shanahan was brought in to essentially be his boss. Immediately questions emerged relating to the control in which Nonis had over player personal decisions and despite signing a two-year contract extension in 2013, could not do enough to stick in the highly heated market of Toronto.
Here are there things which led to the demise of Nonis as the Toronto Maple Leafs GM
1. Bad Contracts
If there was one thing it appeared Nonis did not know how to handle, it was the salary cap. As Leafs GM, he would throw money at players just hoping it would stick and in turn they would help add character to the locker room. Instead what he got was one of the worst contracts in hockey history in David Clarkson.
Sure you can make the argument that every team was going to throw money at him, but if every GM is going to jump off a bridge do you jump as well?
The Leafs were the highest bidders and Clarkson become a Maple Leaf after signing a seven-year, $36 million deal. He was never the 30-goal scorer he once was in New Jersey and became one of the biggest free agent busts ever. He began his career in Toronto serving a 10-game suspension after leaving the bench to join a fight and it all went down hill from there.
Other bad contracts include
- Signing captain Dion Phaneuf to a seven-year, $49 million contract
- Nonis stated at the signing that Phaneuf was a top notch defenceman who would play at that level for another decade. Since signing the deal Phaneuf has not looked good and his leadership has been called into question
- Signing Tyler Bozak to a five-year extension worth $21 million
- While this was not a huge overpayment for Bozak, he’s not a true first line centre and became yet another play overvalued by Nonis.
- Singing Joffrey Lupul to a five-year deal worth $26.5 million
- Considering the amount of time Lupul has spent on injured reserve and the lack of impact he’s made, this was definitely an overpayment.
Nonis spent money left, right and centre and has tied the hands of the Maple Leafs in the future. Sure he pulled a ribbit out of a hat with the Clarkson trade, but the new Leafs management will need to make major moves to free up space to change this Leafs roster.
2. Believed the 2013 Playoff Appearance was a start
The 2013 playoff berth for the Toronto Maple Leafs was a fluke, and a horrible one at that. The Leafs made the postseason after just 48 games and showed signs of once again falling off the cliff just before the post season. They took the rival Boston Bruins to seven games and management believed they were ready to take that next step. Instead of staying the course, Nonis looked for quick fixes to propel the team forward.
However, it does not take a genius to know that making decisions based on a shortened anomaly of a season is not the best move.
Not like people were saying basing decisions off of 48 games and a playoff series was moronic at the time.
— Hope_Smoke (@Hope_Smoke) April 14, 2015
The playoff berth made everyone excited, including management and instead of thoroughly investing in the future of the team, Nonis went out and handed money to seemingly every player with a pulse. The playoff run was fool’s gold, but Nonis saw it as the real deal. That brief glimpse of the postseason hockey brought in Clarkson, Jonathan Bernier and other veteran players to bring leadership and character should they play another Game 7.
Unfortunately, another playoff berth was not in the cards and that Boston series that dictated this course is now being dubbed as one of the worst things to happen to the Leafs by management.
3. Refused to draft and develop
This might sound harsh but it was a good thing for the Maple Leafs to let go of 18 of their scouts as the drafting has not been on par as of late. Much like his predecessor, Brian Burke, Nonis was more looking to get veteran players and overpay them rather than allowing their own prospects to develop.
Of the current Leafs core of Phil Kessel, Dion Phaneuf, Joffrey Lupul, Jake Gardiner, Nazem Kadri and Morgan Rielly, only two of those players were originally drafted by the Maple Leafs. If you exclude Rielly who is still a rookie, only Kadri, Carl Gunnarsson and Luke Schenn are Leafs draft picks of late who have played significant games with the squad.
Even the Peter Holland deal was one that really made little sense, turning a third-round pick into a second-round forward without really needing too. Not to mention Holland is averaging less than 10 minutes a night since his trade.
Aside from William Nylander there are very few prospects in the AHL and OHL levels that are expected to be high impact players for the Leafs in the future.
Nonis mismanaged the cap, traded away future for now, overvalued players and failed to see the big picture, ultimately leaving the Leafs in a much worse off position. With Nonis gone, Shanahan has a lot of work to do in bringing in a new GM and disbanding the current core which can not win a Cup together.