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Friday won’t be fun for Leafs brass Shanahan, Treliving and Pelley

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The firing of Sheldon Keefe does not let the team triumvirate at Friday morning’s news conference off the hook. 

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President Brendan Shanahan, on his third general manager and now looking for the third coach of the dog-eared blueprint that bears his name, must defend his 10-year record of winning one playoff round and of at least being in on decisions on big trades, contracts and the like.

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In 2014, Shanahan was brought in to change the culture of the Leafs as both a hard-nosed Stanley Cup winner with league executive experience and as a native Torontonian who knew the pain of a half-century championship drought.

He has made his mark off the ice, supervising the expansion of key support staff, media initiatives and a bigger, better Leafs logo. He was point man on projects such as Legend’s Row, the club’s centennial, an inclusive game night vibe for fans, lobbying for a couple of outdoor games and, this year, the lucrative all-star weekend. 

But it’s like the Leafs have gone back 20 or 30 years when they were teased for leading the NHL in all things superfluous, instead of long playoff runs that a flagship franchise should hold dearest.

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With a year to run on his current deal. it’s a good sign for Shanny to be at the table on Friday, but if there’s not to be a change in his duties, he’ll need a convincing new mantra. 

Based on three straight 100-point regular seasons, Brad Treliving could have pressed for Keefe to at least start another season on the two-year extension he gave the coach upon replacing Kyle Dubas as general manager. That could’ve provided another strong start and eventually take some sting out Saturday’s Game 7 loss to Boston, the seventh first-round loss in eight tries.

But there could be no ignoring the past few days and the conflagration in Leafs Nation.

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As Treliving justified in Wednesday’s termination release of Keefe; “we determined a new voice is needed to help the team push through to our ultimate goal.” 

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The next coach is on Treliving and puts him on the hot seat after a year’s honeymoon where most of his personnel moves — Max Domi, Tyler Bertuzzi, Ryan Reaves — were welcomed.

Signing William Nylander long-term, but not Ilya Samsonov, worked out. But now there are no proven NHL goalies signed behind Joseph Woll and the Mitch Marner/John Tavares contract negotiations beyond next season are going to be a headache after July 1.

Friday also will be Keith Pelley’s first major media address as the president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, indeed the first time anyone in the ivory towers on Bay Street has spoken at a state of the union in a long time.

There has long been protests that ‘real fans’ have been ignored or forgotten amidst years of MLSE profiteering by corporate suits. 

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In fairness to ex-CEO Michael Friisdahl and his interim replacement Cynthia Devine, they weren’t expected to meddle in the unfamiliar milieu of the Leafs. Minority owner Larry Tanenbaum had mostly kept his distance to concentrate on basketball and the company’s greater $8-billion picture.  

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Pelley, far more outgoing and thus eager to get involved in all facets, is expected to have much more day-to-day contact with Shanahan and Treliving. And don’t be surprised if he offers to take Marner out for lunch one of these days to see if he can bring the temperature down on that front-burner issue. 

Pelley has to keep the seats filled after the next phase of Scotiabank Arena’s $350-million renovation, but as a local who grew up on the Leafs, he has a personal stake in making this work, too, 

lhornby@postmedia.com  

X: @sunhornby 

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