With all the excitement and hope coming into this season, it is so easy to take for granted what the management team has accomplished in such order. The Maple Leafs organization has one of the most loyal and fanatic fan bases in the entire NHL, and for a time that fan base witnessed a once proud and successful franchise get relegated to lottery pick status and many fans turning to paper bags when attending games at the ACC.
Watching this organization turn over a new leaf (pun intended) under the Shanahan regime these last 36 months, one can’t help but see this organization regaining its respectability in many NHL circles. It is beginning to be a marquee landing spot for free agents and many hockey experts have begun to call these young Maple Leafs a team to watch out for in the Eastern Conference if not in the entire NHL. The passion that unites all Maple Leafs’ fans is now being rewarded and there is a reason to beleaf again!
Better drafting and player scouting under Shanahan and his management team has seen players like Nikita Zaitsev, William Nylander, Mitch Marner and the key piece Auston Matthews added to the Maple Leafs organization in very short succession.
Shrewd trades and free agent signings added support and guidance to a young but exciting Maple Leafs roster. All these moves assisted in the Maple Leafs making the playoffs and pushing the Washington Capitals to a highly competitive game 6 in last year’s playoffs.
Improvements made to coaching and player development also contributed in making last season such a success, Mike Babcock came in under the Shannahan regime and helped to mold players like Jake Gardiner, Morgan Reilly and Nazem Kadri into players the organization could lean on for leadership and each saw improvements in overall personal stats and growth in their games. One of Mike Babcock’s biggest contributions to the organization was his ability to put players in a position to succeed, growing the team’s confidence and performance throughout last season.
When Shanahan set out to fix this organization, there were many holes that needed to be filled and a huge culture change needed to take place. No one could have seen or predicted such a turn around and so quickly in the process. The depth in talent at all levels of the Maple Leafs organization combined with the management team has righted the ship and the Maple Leafs are building towards something historical.
Today, there is real hope that this organization and its young stars are indeed on a path to history, for that we owe a great deal of gratitude to Shanahan and his staff for all their hard work as the vision of a day of a Stanley Cup returning to Toronto is truly commencing to take shape. Going into this season, there is a great deal of excitement and with puck drop on game one of the season mere weeks away, the chants of “Go Leafs Go” have started to ring out in Toronto and rightfully so!