The Toronto Maple Leafs started their Sunday morning following the culmination of the regular season by dismissing… well, everyone.
The team confirmed that interim head coach Peter Horachek and general manager Dave Nonis had both been dismissed early Sunday morning, following one of the most disastrous seasons in the team’s history. A 21-16-3 start to the year went south quickly under the coaching tandem of Randy Carlyle (dismissed January 9th, less than a full season after he was awarded a two year extension with the club) and Horachek, with off-ice issues on a near weekly basis and some of the worst play in the NHL.
It seems the team didn’t stop there, though.
Per Mark Spector of Sportsnet, the Leafs followed their dismissal of Horachek and Nonis with up to eighteen additional personnel swaps; although there has been no official confirmation from the team, Spector announced that director of scouting Steve Kasper has been let go, as well. Sportsnet 590’s Ryan Fabro followed up with the disclosure that Kasper may have been sent out the door with as many as eighteen of the team’s scouts.
Although seemingly shocking on the surface, this may be the most efficient way to move forward for the Leafs. By permitting a new coach and general manager to hand-select members of their scouting department (likely with the assistance of assistant general manager Kyle Dubas, who was brought on last summer to head the team’s analytics department), the Leafs are ensuring that no lingering issues from the ‘Nonis Era’ remain. If there is any criticism to be made regarding the decision, it’s that the Leafs management staff remaining — Dubas and team president Brendan Shanahan leading the way — effectively prevented whomever is brought in to replace Nonis, Horachek, and Kasper from carrying over anyone they thought was effective from the dismissal list. Considering Kasper’s staunch anti-analytics stance, though, it’s likely that any dismissals were made to members of the scouting department who subscribed to Kasper’s school of opinion.
With Nonis and Kasper gone, of course, the Leafs have left themselves in a unique predicament — the NHL Draft Lottery is being held in less than a week, and the team now has no general manager or scouting director (and, from what it seems, nearly no scouting staff) heading into the entry draft.
Although the scouting department hasn’t been completely stripped — and any scouts brought on would likely be prepared to make a sufficient showing at the draft in late June — this also poses a problem for existing players; with a number of pending RFA’s on the roster (such as center Nazem Kadri and goaltender Jonathan Bernier), the team will have trouble moving negotiations forward and determining who is best to bring on (and who should be dealt) at the draft. The best defense Shanahan can provide for this, obviously, is that all the announcements made Sunday morning — and any hires made in the week following, which will likely be swift — have been in the works for a while now.