Shanahan says more changes are coming after coach, GM fired
TORONTO (AP) In a little more than a year as president of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Brendan Shanahan has fired the team's general manager, two different head coaches and several assistants and scouts.
''(Players) understand yesterday was just the beginning, that there will be some changes,'' Shanahan said Monday, a day after firing general manager Dave Nonis, interim coach Peter Horachek, his staff and several scouts.
With a long-term vision in mind, Shanahan and his already-established staff will hire a new general manager and coaching staff and begin the process of trying to build the Leafs into not just a playoff team but a Stanley Cup contender.
Shanahan's goal is to find ''resilient'' people to fill those spots, in the front office, behind the bench and on the ice to carry out his vision.
''The challenge here in Toronto is not to come up with the plan. The challenge in Toronto is to stick to it,'' Shanahan said. ''Shortcuts have gotten this organization into trouble in the past. This has to once and for all be a build that we are committed to and that we don't stray from.''
Plans change, but Shanahan's vision didn't include Nonis, former head coach Randy Carlyle or Horachek. It does include director of player personnel Mark Hunter and assistant general manager Kyle Dubas, both Shanahan hires who will share interim GM duties and could be candidates for the full-time job.
After the team's worst season with the current group of core players, the next few months are expected to show that the vision may not include captain Dion Phaneuf and right wing Phil Kessel. Shanahan didn't name names, but made it clear the roster won't look the same when the puck drops for the 2015-16 season.
''As a group, as a mix, I think they've shown and they understand and accept that over the last several years, not just this year, for whatever reason the mix doesn't work,'' Shanahan said. ''After what's happened here over the last several years, I think (change) has to include everybody.''
Toronto missed the playoffs for the second straight year. The team's last trip to the postseason in 2013 was during a lockout-shortened season and ended with a collapse against the Boston Bruins in Game 7 of the first round.
Roster tweaks have been made since then, but the next GM will be tasked with a more thorough overhaul.
Shanahan won't be looking for the most experienced, veteran GM available. Instead, the person he hires will follow a blueprint that is already in place.
''This job won't be for some general managers, but those general managers won't be for us,'' Shanahan said. ''There will be no shortage of the right people that want to be a part of this.''
After the Leafs won just nine games under Horachek and fell apart in the second half, players figure this will be a summer of upheaval. The firings provided further evidence of that.
''It takes as long as it takes,'' Shanahan said. ''Whether people have the patience for that or not, in my opinion you don't deviate from the vision. You have to adapt and make changes to the plan as you're going along because it's a fluid game, there's 29 other smart teams out there trying to beat us and trying to stay ahead of us.''
The long-term plan figures to include defenseman Morgan Rielly, left wing James van Riemsdyk and potentially a handful of other young players such as Peter Holland, center Nazem Kadri, goaltender Jonathan Bernier and defenseman Jake Gardiner.
But without a GM in place and without Shanahan sharing his ideas, there are plenty of unknowns.
One of those is where the Leafs will pick in the first round of the draft, with the possibility of landing prospect Connor McDavid if they win the lottery Saturday. They have a 9.5 percent chance, and that dream made Shanahan's face light up even after 20 minutes of talk about a long-term future.
''It would certainly speed things up,'' he said.