The Toronto Maple Leafs are entering a rebuilding stage, or at least moving in a new direction under Brendan Shanahan. The route Shanahan appears to be taking is good news for Leaf fans who have suffered through a decade of less-than-spectacular hockey in Toronto.
Amidst the firing of GM Dave Nonis and head coach Dave Horachek, Shanahan made no bones about the fact he is more than willing to move players who have shown they are not interested in sticking around. After the firing of Randy Carlyle, the Toronto players were asked to prove that they want to stay and are committed to becoming a better hockey team.
However, few players stepped up and those that did found themselves traded for picks and prospects. Where the firing of Carlyle was meant to light a fire under the organization, they stayed content with their own brand of hockey and nothing changed under coaching of Horachek—in fact the Leafs actually looked worse under their new head coach.
The Leafs have quickly become the brunt of NHL jokes for their poor play over the last decade. Something about the atmosphere or leadership of the team absolutely reeks and that same smell has lingered for the better part of a decade.
Players refuse to adapt to the game plan, resorting to play their own kind of puck, leaving the defensive zone a mess. If the Leafs are to move forward under Shanahan, then they must address this lingering problem before another coach loses his job at the cost of un-coachable players.
The core players of the Leafs have been around the team long enough to have made a negative impact and it’s something that even new imports this offseason sensed. These core players have been around for all four of the Leafs late seasons collapses following the lockout.
They are fundamentally broken and the Leafs must break the core before they can move forward.