Welcome to 2015 and the beginning of our newest NHL franchise the New Jersey Maple Leafs, err, the Toronto Maple Leafs 2.0 I mean. Yes, in sports rebuilding can mean many things, it can define a team at the bottom of the pit starting over, it can also be describing a middle of the pack team who wants to re-evaluate their chances, and even occasionally a playoff team who wants to shake up its core. For fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs it usually means long years and longer off-seasons, mainly due in part to the fact the Leafs do not know how to rebuild, they simply attempt a re-boot ala the past 10 years and land flat on their faces come game #55.
So, as the past year’s brutally long and drowned out end finally came to, many leaf fans breathed a long sigh of dismay and moved on with their lives to basketball, baseball or simply anything that could erase the past October through April. While this happened, Leafs management went through some changes. Brendan Shanahan, still a fresh face on the scene, moved quickly to dump his coaching staff and hire the most expensive, but also most sought after, coach in the NHL. That won’t make this team a winner though, both Shanny and Babcock admitted that, but the next few moves, oh boy the pieces are being set. Lou Lamoriello was lured away from the Devils organization he himself pretty much created, built and maintained for over twenty years, 3 stanley cup victories and 5 cup appearances. This is the dynasty builder right here, literally, Lou Lamoriello is a dynasty creator and his abilities to turn teams into contenders are second to none in the sport. The addition of himself alone gives the franchise hope that through the draft and some shrewd decision making over the next few years we could be seeing success in Toronto soon enough. Wait, there’s more.
The Leafs didn’t stop their moves there, as they have also acquired the services of another Devil’s staff member Jacques Lemaire. Yes, he won’t be behind the bench or really in the mix of things with the team itself, but he has been hired as a special assignment coach for the club, the same position he was just holding with N.J. Another brilliant steal of a great hockey mind, and second in a row from the Devils organization in a month. However, with this being the second new Devils staffer brought in, it feels like the Leafs are taking exactly what made the Devils go from basement dwellers to champs in the late 80’s through till present time, and attempting to re-apply it all over again. However, one shouldn’t complain about such an ordeal, considering this may be the most positive steps forward made by the franchise all in one offseason in… almost ever.
So the pieces are now in place, maybe not for a stanley cup, or even the playoffs, but for future prosperity in Toronto, things are starting to look upwards. The blueprint, or rather the redprint seems to be build what was built in New Jersey, a strong defence, with great back end goaltending and some pieces with firepower and alot of grit upfront. The plans may sound better fit for the mid-90’s or early 2000’s style of hockey that was played, but I’m sure if it worked over three different decades, they had something right. So as we look forward to the upcoming season and what it will bring Torontonians and leaf fans alike, lets be prepared for another tumultuous and grueling 82 games. We shouldn’t expect success to be quick or frequent, and patience will once again be the biggest virtue for what feels like the 50th straight year in Leafland. Still, if there was ever a reason to smile when you think about the Maple Leafs, well now you have three new reasons to do so. It will be an intriguing year in Toronto, lets just hope the Devi…err….Leafs can turn the ship around, New Jersey style.