stats
globeinteractive.com: Making the Business of Life Easier

   Finance globeinvestor   Careers globecareers.workopolis Subscribe to The Globe
The Globe and Mail /globeandmail.com
Home | Business | National | Int'l | Sports | Columnists | The Arts | Tech | Travel | TV | Wheels
space


Search

space
  This site         Tips

  
space
  The Web Google
space
   space



space

  Where to Find It


Breaking News
  Home Page

  Report on Business

  Sports

  Technology

space
Subscribe to The Globe

Shop at our Globe Store


Print Edition
  Front Page

  Report on Business

  National

  International

  Sports

  Arts & Entertainment

  Editorials

  Columnists

   Headline Index

 Other Sections
  Appointments

  Births & Deaths

  Books

  Classifieds

  Comment

  Education

  Environment

  Facts & Arguments

  Focus

  Health

  Obituaries

  Real Estate

  Review

  Science

  Style

  Technology

  Travel

  Wheels

 Leisure
  Cartoon

  Crosswords

  Food & Dining

  Golf

  Horoscopes

  Movies

  Online Personals

  TV Listings/News

 Specials & Series
  All Reports...

space

Services
   Where to Find It
 A quick guide to what's available on the site

 Newspaper
  Advertise

  Corrections

  Customer Service

  Help & Contact Us

  Reprints

  Subscriptions

 Web Site
  Advertise

  E-Mail Newsletters

  Free Headlines

  Globe Store New

  Help & Contact Us

  Make Us Home

  Mobile New

  Press Room

  Privacy Policy

  Terms & Conditions


GiveLife.ca

    

PRINT EDITION
Exit rebuild: Leafs enter a new phase, and expectations couldn't be higher
space
space
By DAVID SHOALTS
  
  

Email this article Print this article
Friday, September 14, 2018 – Page B12

TORONTO -- All summer, the sports-radio machine talked about how the Toronto Maple Leafs could win the Stanley Cup.

Then some of the major oddsmakers said the Maple Leafs are the favourites to win the Stanley Cup.

Last week, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Patrick Kane and Tyler Seguin all made the Leafs their choice to win the Cup outside of their own teams.

Pretty heady stuff for a city that last held a Stanley Cup parade in 1967, even if the talented group of youngsters has been the favourite team-on-the-rise of NHL observers for a couple of years.

What was interesting, though, on the Maple Leafs' first day of training camp for the 2018-19 season, is management appears to have elbowed its way onto the bandwagon, too.

Neither rookie general manager Kyle Dubas nor head coach Mike Babcock were reckless enough to identify their team as the favourite to win the NHL championship, but both made it clear the Leafs are finished with the rebuilding stage of the Brendan Shanahan era.

When Shanahan was hired as team president in 2014 and then implemented the "Shanaplan" rebuild in early 2015, after almost a year of studying the operation, the watch word was pain. He promised it when the plan to tear the team down to its foundations was made public, and both Lou Lamoriello and Babcock repeated it when they came aboard three years ago.

"There's pain coming," Babcock said at the news conference to announce his signing. Of course, the coach had that eightyear, US$50-million contract to ease his own discomfort. On Thursday, Babcock declared the Leafs were now at the start of the next era, one like his former team enjoyed from about 2006 through 2011 when the Detroit Red Wings routinely finished first or second over all in the regular season, won a Cup in 2008 and were the Western Conference champions in 2009.

"We're excited. I feel like it's my first year," Babcock said.

"Now you coach the team. Before, you're just trying to get the team to a certain level. This is kind of like the Red Wings all over again. Now we have an opportunity."

The opportunity came in the guise of centre John Tavares.

There were some people who thought the Leafs might have paused in their rebuild when Shanahan pushed Lamoriello out of the general manager's chair and turned the job over to 32-year-old rookie Dubas. But they were gobsmacked when the kid swiped Tavares out from under Lamoriello, who decamped for the Islanders when the Leafs turned him out to pasture.

While he was at it, Dubas also did away with some of Lamoriello's famous rules, too. This means there will be facial hair, although Mitch Marner, who at 21 could still get a child's ticket at the movies, doesn't think he will take advantage: "I mean, if Just For Men works really well then I guess so." Now the Leafs can roll the best set of centres in the league on opponents: Tavares, Auston Matthews and Nazem Kadri. As with any team in a salary-cap league, the Leafs have holes. There were no major moves on defence, so holdovers Connor Carrick, Justin Holl, Andreas Borgman and Calle Rosen, plus newcomer Igor Ozhiganov, will compete for the sixth and seventh spots.

Up front, James van Riemsdyk's 36 goals will be missed, but with Marner flying with Tavares and speedsters Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson both slotted for more prominent roles, this should not be a problem.

Yes, Matthews's wing man, William Nylander, is not in camp because of contract negotiations, but this is a ways from crisis level.

The most important fight for a job might be at backup goaltender. Frederik Andersen's play suffered at times under a 66-game workload, which did not help in the first-round playoff loss to the Boston Bruins. While veteran Curtis McElhinney posted a gaudy .934 save percentage in 18 games as the backup last season, Babcock does not appear comfortable playing him more than that. So the job might go to farmhand Garret Sparks, 25, who was the goalie-of-the-year in the AHL last season.

Babcock brushed aside questions about the defence, citing the 52-point seasons in 2017-18 from both Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner. "I think the group is real good, a lot better than a lot of people think. We've got two 50-point D-men. I don't know how many teams in the league have two 50-point D-men. We believe we can get way better defensively," he said.

The important part is Babcock's belief that the team is "set up real good here for, I don't know, a five-, seven-year run.

Anybody who's been around winning in the National Hockey League knows you need a run.

It's not about one year. It's about a run."

This was the point of blowing the whole thing up in 2015, fielding a substandard team in order to get that first overall pick in the 2016 entry draft to get Matthews and assemble and develop a bumper crop of young talent on the Toronto Marlies. If the past two years of the Leafs finding their legs and finally making the playoffs after a decade in the wilderness were a relief for Leaf fans, then the real excitement is about to begin.

But only if, as both Babcock and Dubas said, the Leafs stay the course on the development plan. And if - perhaps the biggest if - the team does not wilt under all of the expectations.

"I think that expectations, you can look at them two ways - you can look at them as pressure, or you can look at them as an opportunity that you've earned," Dubas said. "I think relative to our players, they've earned the respect of their peers through their performance to date, and I think with [Tavares] coming is the thing that moved our team into the upper echelon.

"We want to build this and continue to abide by our process.

It's nice to hear that, it's nice to have those things said about you, but we still have a lot to prove as a group. We haven't won a playoff series yet, so we have to start by focusing on that today and tomorrow and giving ourselves the most chance we can year-in and year-out."

Associated Graphic

The Toronto Maple Leafs can count on three strong centres this season, including Auston Matthews.

CLAUS ANDERSEN/GETTY IMAGES


Huh? How did I get here?
Return to Main Jeffrey_Simpson Page
Subscribe to
The Globe and Mail
 

Email this article Print this article

space  Advertisement
space

Need CPR for your RSP? Check your portfolio’s pulse and lower yours by improving the overall health of your investments. Click here.

Advertisement

7-Day Site Search
    

Breaking News



Today's Weather


Inside

Rick Salutin
Merrily marching
off to war
Roy MacGregor
Duct tape might hold
when panic strikes


Editorial
Where Manley is going with his first budget




space

Columnists



For a columnist's most recent stories, click on their name below.

 National


Roy MacGregor arrow
This Country
space
Jeffrey Simpson arrow
The Nation
space
Margaret Wente arrow
Counterpoint
space
Hugh Winsor  arrow
The Power Game
space
 Business


Rob Carrick arrow
Personal Finance
space
Drew Fagan arrow
The Big Picture
space
Mathew Ingram arrow
space
Brent Jang arrow
Business West
space
Brian Milner arrow
Taking Stock
space
Eric Reguly arrow
To The Point
space
Andrew Willis arrow
Streetwise
space
 Sports


Stephen Brunt arrow
The Game
space
Eric Duhatschek arrow
space
Allan Maki arrow
space
William Houston arrow
Truth & Rumours
space
Lorne Rubenstein arrow
Golf
space
 The Arts


John Doyle arrow
Television
space
John MacLachlan Gray arrow
Gray's Anatomy
space
David Macfarlane arrow
Cheap Seats
space
Johanna Schneller arrow
Moviegoer
space
 Comment


Murray Campbell arrow
Ontario Politics
space
Lysiane Gagnon arrow
Inside Quebec
space
Marcus Gee arrow
The World
space
William Johnson arrow
Pit Bill
space
Paul Knox arrow
Worldbeat
space
Heather Mallick arrow
As If
space
Leah McLaren arrow
Generation Why
space
Rex Murphy arrow
Japes of Wrath
space
Rick Salutin arrow
On The Other Hand
space
Paul Sullivan arrow
The West
space
William Thorsell arrow
space





Home | Business | National | Int'l | Sports | Columnists | The Arts | Tech | Travel | TV | Wheels
space

© 2003 Bell Globemedia Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Help & Contact Us | Back to the top of this page