Sports Damien Cox: Shanahan’s Maple Leafs master plan remains a rough draft

08:55  21 september  2019
08:55  21 september  2019 Source:   thestar.com

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On Brendan Shanahan ’ s watch, the Leafs have more or less nailed their high-end draft picks — but that was easy part. Six drafts in the Shanahan era and 48 selections have so far yielded four NHL players. Not that different than many teams. For at least three of those drafts , it’s too early to reach

Damien Cox is an award-winning sports columnist for the Toronto Star. He has covered the NHL and Cox has been named three times to The Hockey News’ 100 People of Power and Influence in The decision of Leaf ownership to dismiss Gretzky was probably about more than just plans to build a

Brendan Shanahan wearing a suit and tie standing in front of a crowd: In hindsight, using the No. 34 pick on defenceman Travis Dermott in the 2015 draft hasn’t aged well for Brendan Shanahan and the Maple Leafs, Damien Cox writes.© Dave Sandford In hindsight, using the No. 34 pick on defenceman Travis Dermott in the 2015 draft hasn’t aged well for Brendan Shanahan and the Maple Leafs, Damien Cox writes.

There is perception, and there is reality.

For the Maple Leafs, the perception is that since Brendan Shanahan arrived in town more than five years ago and ushered in a new way of thinking, the club has dramatically addressed its historic inability to build a talent base through the NHL draft.

As of today, however, there’s not as much evidence of that as you might think.

Four players drafted in the Shanahan era are currently on the roster: William Nylander (No. 8 in 2014), Mitch Marner (No. 4 in 2015), Travis Dermott (No. 34 in 2015) and Auston Matthews (No. 1 in 2016).

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Shanahan , meanwhile, was part of both. Both the Red Wings and Devils during their heydays were The Leafs have made 27 selections in last three drafts after making only 17 in the three before that So far, 3 ½ years into the Shanaplan, the signs are certainly encouraging. Damien Cox is the co-host

Shanahan is the architect of the master plan that has lifted this club out of the doldrums. Babcock is the person most responsible for executing that plan on a daily basis, and the person most responsible for moving this team to sixth place overall from 30th in just two years. So in that light, the Leafs

Six drafts in the Shanahan era and 48 selections have so far yielded four NHL players. Not that different than many teams. For at least three of those drafts, it’s too early to reach any conclusions.

So let’s dive a little deeper.

Nylander looks like a quality pick at eighth overall in ’14 and has the contract to prove it. But he has yet to establish himself as significantly better than Nik Ehlers or Dylan Larkin, both taken in the next seven picks.

Marner was a superb choice over Noah Hanifin in 2015, although Mikko Rantanen (No. 10) and even Mathew Barzal (No. 16) would have been good alternatives.

Dermott, meanwhile, was seen by Leafs scouts as having better NHL potential in the second round that year than Finnish centre Sebastian Aho — who went to Carolina with the very next pick and, with 197 points already in 242 NHL games, is on the verge of stardom.

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That was a huge miss by the Leafs.

In ’16, Matthews was a no-brainer at No. 1. Every other team would have made the same choice.

So, in terms of grading the Leafs on how they did with those three drafts, you could say they performed well. That said, had they taken Matthews, Larkin, Rantanen and Aho, they’d be ahead of where they are now.

Going back to 2014, none of the other five Leaf selections have made it, although Pierre Engvall (No. 188) is still in the mix. The following draft was very deep and while the Leafs still hope Jeremy Bracco and Dmytro Timashov will become NHLers, they are borderline prospects.

With the 2016 draft, we start getting into the area of “too soon to tell.” Other than Matthews, forward Yegor Korshkov (31st pick) is now finally playing in North America, goalie Joseph Woll (No. 62) left Boston College to sign an entry-level contract in March and Carl Grundstrom (No. 57) was used as an asset to acquire Jake Muzzin from Los Angeles.

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Shanahan knows he wasn’t brought in nine months ago by departing CEO Tim Leiweke to be the final piece of an otherwise successful puzzle, but to effect comprehensive change. Damien Cox is a broadcaster with Rogers Sportsnet and a regular contributor to Hockey Night in Canada.

The intriguing concept of Brendan Shanahan joining the Maple Leafs has been rattling around the restless mind of Tim Leiweke for months. But after an explosion of speculation from a variety of media outlets in the past 48 hours forced the idea to be fast-tracked, that concept is about to turn into reality.

Korshkov, a six-foot-four winger who is already 23 years old, was the somewhat controversial first pick of the second day of the draft that weekend in Buffalo. Given that Alex DeBrincat (No. 39) has already scored 69 NHL goals, Samuel Girard (No. 47) is a regular on Colorado’s defence and Carter Hart (No. 48) is the starting goalie in Philadelphia, Korshkov is going to have to be a very good late bloomer for the Leafs scouting staff to have done well with that pick.

For the last three drafts, ones without those top-10 picks, it’s too soon to make any firm judgments. From 2017, Leafs defence prospect Timothy Liljegren (No. 17) has yet to play an NHL game. Goalie Ian Scott, the 110th pick that year, has been signed.

Toronto’s first-rounder in 2018, defenceman Rasmus Sandin (29th overall), has also not yet played an NHL game, which is not unexpected.

So if you’re searching for a reason why these interminably long training camps and exhibition games filled with non-NHLers have a purpose, for the Leafs it has nothing to do with this season. It would be to measure how many of the other players selected in the last six drafts, beyond the four currently on the roster, have real NHL potential.

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  Dave Feschuk: Maple Leafs will have to keep looking out for No. 2 If you were attempting to pinpoint where it all went wrong for the Maple Leafs last season, you could list off any number of possibilities. Why did they flounder down the stretch, finish third in the Atlantic Division, and lose another Game 7 in Boston last spring? Maybe William Nylander’s nonfactor of a season gets some votes. Maybe Auston Matthews missing 14 games to injury finds some support. Or you could make a case for Toronto’s less-than-stellar special teams, including an historically inept penalty kill.

In other words, to see just how effective their scouts have been.

Morgan Rielly is the only Leaf defenceman signed beyond this year, which makes Liljegren and Sandin crucial prospects. If both can make the grade, that will vindicate the decisions to draft them and help control payroll costs after the huge expense of getting Nylander, Matthews and Marner under contract.

Goalie Frederik Andersen has two years left on his contract. If Scott or Woll can eventually be an NHL starter, that would also significantly help the Leafs’ cap situation.

A very valuable pick, finally, was spent on Korshkov. He might end up being the litmus test of how good this scouting staff really is. They could certainly use the Russian to help support a bid for the Stanley Cup in the next few years if he’s good enough.

Overall, the sheer talent of Nylander, Marner and Matthews makes the drafting since Shanahan arrived look better than it actually may have been. The genius in those three picks really lies in the willingness to bite the bullet and position the team so low in the NHL standings it could draft that high, not the actual selections.

You don’t get credit for not screwing up top-10 picks.

The Leafs have hired some high-profile brains specifically to manipulate the draft and find talent. Shanahan gutted the scouting staff a year after arriving. We’re going to know in the next few years whether all of this really produced a team that’s substantially better at drafting.

The Leafs would dearly love for clear evidence of that to show up during this pre-season. It won’t matter this coming season, but given the team’s payroll challenges it’s going to be critical soon enough.

Damien Cox is a former Star sports reporter who is a current freelance contributing columnist based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @DamoSpin

Damien Cox: Weak links are the price the Leafs pay for showering stars with riches .
It was illuminating to watch the Maple Leafs as they were introduced player by player on Wednesday night. The big reveal, of course, was that John Tavares was introduced as the 25th captain in team history. Like Rob Ramage and Dion Phaneuf, once again the Leafs gave the captaincy to a player without much service time with the team. That said, you certainly can’t say Tavares is a poor choice if you believe in the value of such ceremonial distinctions.The more meaningful reveal, in a way, came with those who skated out moments before Tavares did. There was Freddie (the Goat) Gauthier, the glacially developing former first-round pick, and KHL refugee Nick Shore.

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