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SIMMONS: It’s same old, same old for Brendan Shanahan’s Maple Leafs



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Brendan Shanahan, still Maple Leafs president after all these years, said it is not his intention to single out any one individual.

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He said that the day after the Leafs fired coach Sheldon Keefe.

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He said it with a straight face.

Keefe coached a team with dubious goaltending, a defence devoid of puck-movers, his high-priced talent shutting down when it mattered most, after a seven-game playoff series that included overtime, playing almost six games without Auston Matthews or William Nylander … and he’s the guy the Leafs let go.

Shanahan, after 10 seasons of same old, same old — and some old getting worse — is working now with his fourth general manager and about to be part of the hiring of his fourth head coach, fell on his sword for all to see Friday morning.

Only there was no blood.

There were no marks at all.

“The responsibility ultimately is on me,” said the Maple Leafs president, telling his first sort of fib of the day.

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If the ultimate responsibility was on him as team president, then they would have been announcing his firing at the news conference where he sat at the podium between new MLSE CEO Keith Pelley and almost-new general manager Brad Treliving.

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Pelley has been on the job for six weeks. The Maple Leafs aren’t his mess in any way.

Treliving has been on the job for one season. It’s hard to pin much of the historical Maple Leafs failings on him.

But Shanahan, who now says they’re going to study every aspect of the organization — “We will look at everything and consider everything. Everything is on the table” — remains director of hockey and team rhetoric.

What does every sports team do after every season? They look at everything. They break down everything. They search for ways to get better. They search for players who will make their team better. That’s the job.

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This is nothing new, everything being on the table. The best organizations do that every day of the year — and then a deep dive comes at the end of every season.

Saying that, like it’s something new to hope for, something to believe in, Shanahan is almost insulting the Maple Leafs fan base.

So now he’s going to find out why the Leafs have scored only 11 goals in the eight elimination games they’ve played in during his time running the club? Why didn’t he do that last year? Why not the year before that? He has the highest-paid player and the top goal-scorer in the NHL and, as a team, they can’t score at playoff time.

He has two other 90-to-100-point forwards and they don’t contribute enough — although Nylander has been relatively consistent in the post-season historically — and only now he’s about to find out why?

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What’s the definition of insanity? Albert Einstein, who never coached a game in the NHL, is often quoted as saying that definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

There wasn’t a whole lot of news to emerge from the end-of-season news conference, other than the fact Shanahan remains team president and “everything will be on the table” now concerning the Leafs. There was no news, but there certainly was subtext.

That being the Leafs will call in Mitch Marner sometime soon and ask him if he is willing to waive the no-movement clause in his contract. They will ask him which teams he would accept a trade to.

In the meantime, they will explore the market to see what may or may not be available in a deal for Marner, who holds all the cards in this negotiation. If Marner says no to the Leafs — and that’s entirely his call — they can’t deal him.

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It’s the same situation with team captain John Tavares who, like Marner, is entering the final year on his contract. He is paid $11 million a year and might be a $5- or $6-million player by today’s standards. The money and player just don’t add up anymore — and that’s the fallout years later when unnecessary and expensive free-agent signings take place.

Tavares already has said he has no interest in leaving the Leafs. Much like Marner, who has said he would like to sign on in Toronto beyond next season.

If you assume the Leafs have no interest in trading Matthews — and why should they? — and they have no interest in trading Nylander, who was their second-best player this season, then the only way to change the top-heavy mix of the club is trade approval from Marner or Tavares.

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Both can put a stop to any of those conversations by simply saying no.

The Leafs can take another step and explore what the trade market might be like for Morgan Rielly, who also has a no-trade clause in his contract, but it’s the same process. The players clearly are in control.

The Shanahan Maple Leafs have given away all of the control to the players — and where has that gotten them as a franchise?

And how do they get control back?

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“I’ve been in this game a long time,” said Shanahan, a three-time Stanley Cup champion as a player.

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If he wasn’t Brendan Shanahan, with a Hall of Fame career behind him, he never would have lasted 10 seasons as president of the club. But being Brendan Shanahan has bought him time — and time is running out.

Shanahan said he has no regrets about showing faith in what others called the Core Four.

That’s four players heading to next season with $47 million in salary coming, all with no-trade deals in their contracts. All deals originally approved by the president Brendan Shanahan.

And, with $40 million left to spend on 19 players, try building a champion when you’re that tied into your big-money boys and they can’t seem to do it at playoff time.

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