Sports Leafs president Brendan Shanahan believes in his players: Arthur

08:43  14 september  2017
08:43  14 september  2017 Source:   Toronto Star

Brendan Shanahan hesitant to buy into hype surrounding Leafs

  Brendan Shanahan hesitant to buy into hype surrounding Leafs Toronto Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan saw the same promise as everyone else last season, but seems to have interpreted it a little differently than many around him. TORONTO – Brendan Shanahan was at a hospital fundraiser last week and heard one of the other dignitaries in attendance suggest that the Maple Leafs were finally in position to win a Stanley Cup during his lifetime.That’s when Toronto mayor John Tory stepped in.“I corrected him and said that the Toronto Maple Leafs were going to win the Stanley Cup within the period of time that I am the mayor,” Tory recalled Tuesday.

“(Last season), I was very pleased. I saw a group of people really embracing the moment that they were in, rather than shrinking from it.”.

- Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan . Shanahan believes the Leafs are on the right track to achieving success by building a capable and dedicated staff. Other thoughts from Shanahan : His evaluation of the Leafs ' 2014-15 lineup

Leafs president Brendan Shanahan believes a team finds success not based just on talent, but also because the players have the drive to succeed in the moments that matter most. © Steve Russell Leafs president Brendan Shanahan believes a team finds success not based just on talent, but also because the players have the drive to succeed in the moments that matter most.

Brendan Shanahan likes to tell the story about getting drafted by the New Jersey Devils at 18, and how then-scouting guru David Conte asked him why they should draft him, and Shanahan said, “Because I’m the youngest of four Irish boys, and when there’s one potato left on the table I get it.” Shanahan thinks Conte might have polished his teenaged quote over the years, but the message stayed pleasingly simple, and on brand. You can have talent, but in hockey, it has to be married to will.

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On Thursday, the Toronto Maple Leafs open their 101st season, and it could be special. The Leafs rocketed from 30th to the playoffs last season, spent more time holding a lead that any team other than the Presidents’ Trophy winners, and took that exact team to six games and were dead-close until the very last push. Auston Matthews is a superstar right now, and while Mitch Marner and William Nylander would be the best young player on a hell of a lot of other teams, one of them ranks third on this one. The Leafs might have the best crop of young talent in the league. Everyone knows what’s possible here.

“You see what it could be,” says Shanahan, over lunch at a downtown restaurant. “But it always evolves. That’s the fun part of sports, the unpredictability of sports. There’s always going to be challenges thrown at individuals, and thrown at the team. So you see potential, but potential doesn’t mean anything unless you’re constantly trying to meet it.”

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Around Toronto Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan ’s office there are some pictures you’d expect from a Hall-of-Fame player turned executive (lifting the Shanahan pulls the back catalogue out of a cabinet behind his desk. He can flip through them and find out what he did on say, Aug.

Leafs president Brendan Shanahan made his message clear: Things are going to change in Toronto, and players who give "half efforts" won't stay on the roster.

The Leafs president has struck this same cautious tone in various interviews, because this is just the start of things. Nobody knows how this team will respond to higher expectations, or to a league that takes them more seriously. Shanahan started as an 18-year-old whose name rang out in his high school hallways while he was absent, in the NHL; his youngsters are starting their careers, too. The tests are just beginning.

And the Leafs have to prove their potential, game in, game out. Shanahan looks at the young players reinvigorating the league right now, and sees a byproduct of the league’s rule changes in 2005, which he helped spearhead: He sees a generation that wasn’t practicing hooking and holding at practice, and had coaches encourage skill and speed. And he also knows that in hockey, talent needs more than talent.

“The hardest thing to assess when you’re meeting these 17, 18-year-old draft prospects is will,” says Shanahan. “And that is not necessarily something that you learn in an interview room. Because you are going up against the other best players in the world. And often the margin between one team’s group of players and another are so narrow that it really comes down to will and grit, in that moment.

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“I think you have an idea (with young players), but you have to get to those places to really see. You know?”

Toronto got some of that last season. The necessary wins down the stretch; the dead-legged loss in Game 82 to Columbus that kept them away from a tantalizing first-round series with Ottawa, on a side of the bracket with Montreal and the Rangers. The playoff series against Washington, where the Capitals only opened a clear gap in the third period and overtime of Game 6.

“My sense of it was, they didn’t want to get to Game 7,” says Shanahan. “And they had the experience that even if wasn’t the end of the marathon, it was time for a kick. And that was the (Justin) Williams and the (T.J.) Oshies and their playoff experience. I really thought in that moment, yeah, their playoff experience showed in that overtime.”

Shanahan believes in those moments, and their importance. It’s one reason that privately, he pulled so hard for this team to make the playoffs last season.

“I wouldn’t say (I value) playoff performance so much as big-game performance,” says Shanahan. “And obviously in the playoffs they’re all big games, but if you break it down even further, big moments in games. I just think that there are players who consistently find ways to step up in big moments or big games that do it over a lifetime. If you go back and track their midget and bantam and pee-wee statistics, and not just in hockey but in other sports, there are certain athletes that get to that moment where they shrink and others, where the world sort of slows down for them, and the distractions become quiet for them. It’s just something they were born with in their brain.

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Leafs president Brendan Shanahan is entering his first full season with the team – and Adam Proteau says the Hockey Hall-of-Famer knows he has a lot to prove. It wasn’t the same as being a player , but he was as hungry for his team to win as he was during his 22-year career as an NHL player .

Brendan Shanahan was introduced as the Toronto Maple Leafs ' new president and alternate governor at a press conference Monday that gave every indication that general manager David For his part, Shanahan praised Nonis and said he believed the pair would work well together.

“You can still be that guy and have a bad series or have a bad game or have a bad season. But you look for patterns over time. (Last season), I was very pleased. I saw a group of people really embracing the moment that they were in, rather than shrinking from it.”

So now the Leafs start their 101st season. Shanahan hates to single out his players, to talk them up too much, but one thing he says is, “One of the things that’s impressed me about Auston — and all the rookies we had last year — is they didn’t play like rookies, and they didn’t prepare like rookies, and I think they spent this entire off-season preparing like veterans. I’m happy we have him. I think he’s a fantastic person, and player, and teammate.”

What he won’t say is Matthews unlocks everything else, and with him the window is open again, truly open. They should have a chance to win the division, to start. They should have a chance to do great things. In the language of the Shanahan brothers, there is one real potato in this sport. They could get it. That’s where they are.

“When you go up against the best players in the sport, you get revealed for who you are and what you are,” says Shanahan. “You find out. You find out.”

Here come the Leafs.

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