Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Mike Brophy at NHL.com,
The Toronto Maple Leafs are in a transition phase, and it is clear there will be no quick fixes after they missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs in back-to-back seasons. President Brendan Shanahan and new coach Mike Babcock have preached patience as they take their first steps toward trying to construct a winning team.
With sweeping changes this summer, including a trade that sent forward Phil Kessel to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the 2015-16 Maple Leafs will bear little resemblance to recent editions. Considering they've made the playoffs once since 2004, it's a welcomed fresh start.
Here are four reasons for optimism:
Babcock is behind the bench: Given his success, Babcock could have taken a job with a team that is much closer to being a contender than Toronto. He won the Stanley Cup with the Detroit Red Wings in 2008 and two Olympic gold medals with Canada (2010, 2014). The Maple Leafs, who haven't won the Cup since 1967, represent one of hockey’s greatest challenges. After signing an eight-year contract, Babcock has the credibility and organizational power to successfully command an intense on- and off-ice commitment from his players. Babcock demands discipline and hard work from his players; those who don't give it will find themselves elsewhere.
Because of their lack of success, coupled with the media scrutiny in Toronto, the Maple Leafs have not been a destination for many high-profile free agents. Babcock said upon his hiring that he wants Toronto to be a "safe" city for his players. That will be accomplished by winning and consistency.
"You see what they're doing obviously on the outside with hiring different people in management and coaches, but the stuff behind the scenes, the things they're doing to track performance and health, is all very encouraging. They're making the commitment and that starts up top with ownership. They're making a commitment to different things to really make sure that there is no excuse if you put the work in."
-James van Riemsdyk of the Toronto Maple Leafs. More from Dan Rosen of NHL.com.
from Frank Seravalli of TSN,
The Toronto Maple Leafs asked an impartial arbitrator to award goaltender Jonathan Bernier the minimum amount possible in a brief filed to both sides on Wednesday, calling for an award of $2.89 million on a one-year deal.
The minimum award for restricted free agents in salary arbitration is 85 per cent of their previous season's salary, which for Bernier was $3.4 million.
Bernier, 26, is the only one of 23 players in the arbitration process this summer to receive a filed offer from his club below what he earned last season. The Maple Leafs did not issue Bernier a qualifying offer in June equal to his $3.4 million salary and instead opted for arbitration, where they had to option to offer 85 per cent.
Bernier's camp, led by agent Pat Brisson, asked the arbiter for an award of $5.1 million. The two sides are $2.21 million apart heading into the scheduled hearing on Friday morning.
from Tony Gallagher of the Vancouver Province,
... with the coach Mike Babcock already hired and not the least bit intimidated about what the GM may or may not say or want to do and Brendan Shanahan evidently making the real calls in the organization, you have to wonder as to how effective he’ll be. After all, when he was in Jersey he was pretty much all powerful. What he said was law until the final days of his time there. In this case, it’s Babcock who holds all the power when it comes to running the team.
Lamoriello’s peculiar dictates ran the Devils and it made life miserable for many, which is why most players tried to get out of New Jersey as quickly as possible with the exception of lifers like Patrick Elias, Martin Brodeur and Ken Daneyko.
Who can forget Igor Larionov telling the story of how, at age 42, when he was finishing his career, he wasn’t supposed to have a glass of wine with his dinner the night before the game. And, as we know now given his involement in Napa, Iggy understandably took wine very seriously.
In the team pictures taken in civilian clothes, everyone had to wear the same color shirt and tie. Members of the media were not allowed to go into any of the coaches’ offices, even if invited, which they most assuredly were not but only because of Lou’s dictates. No player was allowed facial hair as he obviously considered them far too immature to be able to make their own personal choices.
Legend had it he had security cameras installed in the hallway so he could tell which player was talking with which reporter at all times.
from Mike Zeisberger of the Toronto Sun,
In a Maple Leafs dressing room too often stuffed with inflated egos, personal agendas and a greater concern for personal stats rather than the overall standings, the arrivals of Mike Babcock and, now, Lou Lamoriello, are a sobering reality check for all concerned.
In being introduced as the 16th general manager in Maple Leafs history on Thursday, Lamoriello was candidly clear about that as he stated his mandate in this, his new hockey home.
He doesn’t care about how many points you accrue. He couldn’t give a rat’s rump over how many individual awards are shoe-horned into your trophy case. If you aren’t contributing to the greater good of the team, there really isn’t any room for you.
As an analogy, Lamoriello, 72, compared the makeup of a hockey team to that of a successful symphony orchestra.
“It’s all about music,” he said. “If the music isn’t good, no matter how good each and every instrument is, everybody leaves.”
from Larry Brooks of the New York Post,
from Bruce Arthur of the Toronto Star,
In a sentence nobody ever expected to read, Lou Lamoriello is now the general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Like Dave Nonis before him, he says he has autonomy; like Nonis before him, the final vision and decisions rest with team president Brendan Shanahan. Lamiorello drafted Shanahan as an 18-year-old in 1987. This will be a different thing, for both of them.
“He’s much more nimble than people think. He’s much more flexible than people think,” Shanahan said. “I’m not afraid of very talented, strong-willed individuals. I actually think it’s an asset to have that in the organization. I think as long as the leadership is right, it can work.
“I just don’t see the logic in saying, just hire less competent people because they’re more likely to get along. I want winners. Winners know how to adapt to win. Will it be a challenge? Yeah, sure. It’s a challenge to have a great hockey team. It’s not easy to have a team full of superstars.”
Shanahan was criticized by some for moving too slowly; maybe now he will be criticized for doing too much. But he has assembled a fascinating array of strong voices for the Leafs, and it’s up to him to manage them.
from David Shoalts of the Globe and Mail,
If you are going to sweep out the country-club atmosphere, as Shanahan and Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment president Tim Leiweke promised, along with a lot of their predecessors, then there are no better people to do it than Lamoriello and Babcock. Both have definitive Type A personalities, both are demanding taskmasters and brook no nonsense.
When Lamoriello was asked about potential changes, he said change will come only if he decides it’s necessary after examining the organization. Then he said this: “The one thing that fundamentally will not change … is the word accountability.”
That was followed by something anyone who ever played for the Devils during Lamoriello’s 28 years that saw 21 playoff appearances, five conference championships and three Stanley Cups had heard many times. The kind of player he wants are those “willing to give up their own identity for that logo and never [mix] what’s on the back of the jersey for what’s on the front.”
Lamoriello, 72, also represents the missing piece of the picture Shanahan has been painting since he took the first year of his tenure to sit back and study this dysfunctional franchise. He is as old school as it gets, demanding shirts and ties at all times of team employees, but he is also one of the most respected men in the NHL. A long list of hockey people cite him as their primary mentor, from Shanahan to former Leafs GM Brian Burke and former Leafs head coach Ron Wilson, who both played for him at Providence College. There is no one in the NHL from commissioner Gary Bettman down who dares not to take Lamoriello’s calls.
added 5:39pm, from Chris Stevenson at NHL.com,
The press conference is scheduled to begin at 2:00pm ET, watch it below....
About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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