For the first time in 9 years, Brendan Shanahan’s team feels like bad old Maple Leaf family

Here it is again, that funny feeling.

If you were a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs, you’ve had enough of the age when Punch Imlach would do Harold Ballard’s dirty work, take Lanny McDonald out of town and antagonize Darryl Sittler.

I’ve been on and off it but mostly under the leadership of Jerry McNamara, Gord Stlick, and Floyd Smith.

She disappeared when Ballard died and Clive Fletcher arrived, and most of them stayed hidden way into the Bat-Queen era. But then he was back with John Ferguson Jr. We thought he was gone when Brian Burke arrived, but he wasn’t, and by the time Dave Nunes was in charge, it was almost overwhelming.

And then, under Brendan Shanahan, he disappeared. Even today.

Leafs fans know the feeling I mean. It is in this sense that this team does not know what to do. It’s an endless source of drama and not the good kind. It’s a sideshow. That no one in charge has a firm hand at the wheel, or any kind of real plan.

Other teams are smart, well-managed and professional. To be … leaves.

To be clear, this is me wearing a Maple Leafs fan hat. For now, this is not my media hat. And having just watched the same Shanahan press conference as hers, I know what you know. I don’t own a hat inside and never have, so I don’t have anything for you on that side of things. And there’s definitely something else going on here, right? Something else behind the scenes that won’t be said, may have been hinted at.

I hope so. Because in the nine years Shanahan spent running the show in Toronto, I’m used to not feeling that way. And today, she roared back.

Let’s see if we can summarize. The Maple Leafs entered this year unsure if they wanted to hitch their wagon to Kyle Dubas. That was fair. Dubas is a smart guy and he did a good job as a GM. Good job, though not a flawless job. And the results, at least in the playoffs, weren’t there. He’s done enough to earn me some confidence. He hadn’t done enough to be a great player, so having him work through the final year of his deal and then regrouping after the season seemed like a reasonable plan.

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Then the season came and went, just like every other season: regular season success, deadline loading, then final game disappointment. They won a round, for once, but the enthusiasm for that win quickly faded.

Is Dubas enough to keep his job? maybe. There was a strong case to be made. But again, it wasn’t a lock. Dubas himself wasn’t sure if he wanted to continue. When word broke on Friday that a change had been made, it seemed like a surprise but not any kind of shock.

Shanahan made his choice. It’s time for a new voice. Change had finally come, and it made a certain kind of sense.

And then he started talking. And things got weird.

As Shanahan laid out the timeline that led us here, it became clear that this wasn’t a typical case of GM failing to live up to expectations or even for a team that simply decided it was time for a new set of eyes. Instead, it was a twisted saga of decisions being made, and then not being made. Shanahan had seen enough by the trade deadline and wanted Dubas back. After some consideration, Dubas decided he wanted to stay, and his agent got involved. Offers have been made. Playoffs have come and gone, and the disappointment at how it ended didn’t change the plan.

Then media Monday came along, and Dupas apparently said something that gave Shanahan second thoughts. His comments about the toll the job took on his family felt crude and honest, at least to these ears. In Shanahan’s words, they sounded like someone who had doubts about whether he wanted the job. There have been more discussions, and perhaps more back-and-forth screenings will be suggested. In the end, Dubas made his position clear: He wanted to continue. there was.

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That’s when Shanahan decided, no you’re not.

Again, it all depends on one person’s telling the story. There is almost certainly more here, maybe a lot more than that. All hot snippets of the day may be out of date when more information comes out. Even coming out of Shanahan’s narration, it feels like something was going on with those shows and counter-shows that might have just smashed things off track. The owners have a way of interfering with these things and when they do sometimes the staff have to cover it up. Another GM may have emerged as an unexpected Plan B, and Shanahan can’t tell who she is yet. There is always another layer. We will find out the truth soon. Maybe multiple versions of it.

But for now, we can’t help but take Shanahan at his word, at least as far as the basics go. This looks like this:

The Maple Leafs wanted to take a season to determine their path forward.

After more than a year, they made up their minds.

And then they changed their minds in four days. It is largely based on one press conference.

I’m looking for a way to reflect this story well on the team. I can’t find it. Instead, this looks like the way old paper used to do things. headlong. Almost at random. Make big franchise-changing decisions based on what someone’s intuition tells you. Years of progress vanish in a few days, or even hours.

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None of this is even a defense of Dubas. I’ve made the case for major changes more than once over the past few weeks, and the impact on GM certainly qualifies. Shanahan would have shown up on a Friday afternoon and told us: Sorry, it wasn’t good enough. Or maybe: He did a good job, but I have someone better ready to go. Or even: As a man with three rings, I decided Kyle wasn’t the guy to take us to the Stanley Cup, and that’s the only goal that matters to this franchise.

Instead, we hear of a mind made up, then taken apart. in four days.

And there is this feeling again.

I hope I’m wrong. I hope that when we find out what really happened here, it all makes more sense than the version Shanahan just put out.

I really, really hope so. Because I’ve had this sinking feeling most of my life as a Maple Leafs fan, and I don’t like it, and I’m so used to it not being there.

The Leafs need a new general manager, almost certainly a new coach, and perhaps an overhaul of the staff. And their fans need answers as to how all this actually happened. We will likely get all of that over the coming weeks.

But for now, this feels like a neglected, confusing franchise. If there’s a long-term plan, it’s not one that can’t be canceled based on a press conference or a few phone calls. And somehow, the team seems farther from the championship than when it shook hands at the end of another losing season just a week earlier.

I know the feeling. I bet you do too. Let’s see how long it lasts this time.

(Photo by Brendan Shanahan: Arlyn McAdorey/The Canadian Press via AP)

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