WASHINGTON – The first word about Brendan Shanahan that Ken Holland used was “passion.” Passion for hockey, passion for his work.
That work on Friday became running the Toronto Maple Leafs as team president. To succeed in his first NHL front office job, Shanahan has to have more than just passion for what he does and Holland—the longtime Detroit Red Wings general manager—believes Shanahan has the necessary tools.
“It’s about knowing who to hire,” Holland said in a phone interview. “It’s about hiring the right coach, it’s about hiring the right chief scout, it’s about hiring the right director of pro scouting, it’s about knowing who to talk to in the industry to get information to find those players. …
“I think all the experiences that he’s had as a player and working with the league has prepared him for his challenges in an opportunity with running an NHL team.”
Shanahan previously served as the league’s director of player safety, doling out suspensions that were nicknamed “Shanabans.” He took over the disciplinarian job from Colin Campbell in June 2011.
Shanahan, a 45-year-old Toronto native, started working for the league in 2009 and also served as vice-president of hockey and business development.
Toronto wraps up its disappointing season Saturday night in Ottawa. While Leafs vice-president and general manager Dave Nonis is expected to stay on—at least for now—one of Shanahan’s first tasks would be hiring a coach if the organization decided to part ways with Randy Carlyle.
The Leafs looked like they were bound for the playoffs before a stunning eight-game losing streak last month derailed their season.
“There are no quick fixes,” said Holland, whose Red Wings have made the playoffs in each of the past 17 seasons he has been GM. “But he’s going to a team that they missed the playoffs by, what, five or six points. I think he’s a great hire and it was a matter of time in my opinion for Brendan to show up running a team in the National Hockey League when you factor in everything he’s accomplished on and off the ice in his NHL career.”
Shanahan’s video explanations revolutionized the way the NHL handles supplemental discipline, and those will continue under replacement Stephane Quintal.
“I think his contributions to the game, based on what he’s doing now, will even exceed what he did in the 21 years that he played,” commissioner Gary Bettman said in Toronto on Nov. 11. “He’s making a real mark on how the game is played, making it safer for current players and generations to come.”
Shanahan had 656 goals and 698 assists in 1,524 career NHL games for the New Jersey Devils, St. Louis Blues, Hartford Whalers, Detroit Red Wings and New York Rangers, winning three Stanley Cups along the way.
He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in November.
“He’s done very well wherever he’s been,” Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said Friday after his team’s morning skate in Washington. “As a player he’s had some success winning championships, he’s been around some top players, he’s been around some top executives, he’s done a real good job in the player disciplinary department.
“He’s got a new challenge ahead of him.”
Beyond years of experience playing in and working for the NHL, Shanahan’s final preparations for that challenge included talking to Holland on Thursday for about an hour. Holland said the two men have had many conversations over the years, and that won’t stop now.
“He has a passion for hockey and a thirst for knowledge,” Holland said. “He’s obviously got a wealth of information based upon his experiences and based upon his time in the game, and he loves to talk hockey and talk philosophy and talk current affairs in the National Hockey League.”
More than just talking, Shanahan has been able to spend time listening while attending general manager and board of governors meetings and holding disciplinary hearings.
Everyone will have to wait until Monday to hear what Shanahan plans to do as Leafs president. The team has scheduled a news conference that is set to include Shanahan, Nonis and Maple Leaf Sports&Entertainment president Tim Leiweke.
In the press release announcing Shanahan’s hiring, the team said there will be no further comment until Monday.
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