Brendan Shanahan;

Shanahan tasked with ending years of collapses

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The Toronto Maple Leafs’ collapse will haunt Joffrey Lupul until the day he dies. He’s not the only player to be scarred by the team’s shortcomings.

“It doesn’t get much more embarrassing than that,” Leafs defenseman Cody Franson said after a particularly devastating late season game. “It’s one of those situations right now where it seems like no matter what we try to do it’s just not working. We’re having a tough time getting through it right now.”

The thing is, neither of them were discussing the 2-12-0 tailspin Toronto endured at the end of the 2013-14 campaign that ripped a playoff berth that seemed all-but secured away from the team. Lupul was talking about the Maple Leafs’ Game 7 collapse to the Boston Bruins in the first round of the 2013 playoffs and Franson’s quote was from March 2012 after the Maple Leafs lost 7-1 to the Flyers, which dropped Toronto to 5-17-3 in its last 25 games following a 28-19-6 start.

So when Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment president and CEO Tim Leiweke, who will step down, promised in April that the Leafs are “never going to have to go through this sort of thing again,” you could forgive Toronto fans for being skeptical.

After all coming up short — sometimes in defiance of the odds — seems to be a tradition for the Maple Leafs and while there are nevertheless reasons to be optimistic about the team’s future, the question remains: Are they losing in part because it’s become deeply ingrained into the team’s culture or is this purely a matter of the talent not yet being in place? Or to put it another way: Is there a psychological aspect of the Maple Leafs’ problems?

“I definitely sense that we lack an identity,” Lieweke conceded this summer. “Right now we’re a team that lacks a direction. And we want to change that.”

Given that he’s moving on, Lieweke won’t be the one to see that change through to the end. That task will instead fall to team president Brendan Shanahan. Since his appointment, he’s resisted the push to make dramatic changes by calling the idea of stripping Dion Phaneuf of his captaincy a “cop-out” and giving head coach Randy Carlyle a contract extension.

The Maple Leafs have made some roster moves over the summer, but they didn’t react to their latest collapse by pulling the trigger on a blockbuster trade or free agent signing. That’s in line with Shanahan’s belief that building through the free agent market is a bad habit.

Instead, the changes in Toronto have been a bit more subtle, or at least as subtle as is possible in the hockey hungry market. They changed Carlyle’s assistant coaches and brought in 28-year-old Kyle Dubas to serve as an assistant general manager. The latter move is particularly noteworthy given Dubas’ support of advanced statistics, which is something the Maple Leafs had previously been criticized for dismissing.

Combined with the fact that Shanahan himself is a recent addition and its fair to say that the Maple Leafs are starting to look different at the top. It remains to be seen if that will have a trickle down effect or if their recent history of pain will continue.

One thing we have learnt is that Shanahan has a vision for how he wants to see the team operate and while he hasn’t held his current position for long, he’s certainly acted as someone that won’t deviate from his preferred course in an attempt to alleviate fan or media pressure.

Related:

Under Pressure: Randy Carlyle

Ulf Samuelsson leaves Rangers, takes Carolina’s AHL gig

Ulf Samuelsson, Alain Vigneault
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The ‘Canes made a fairly big coaching splash on Tuesday, announcing they hired New York Rangers assistant coach Ulf Samuelsson to become the new bench boss in AHL Charlotte.

“Ulf has built a very strong coaching resume during a decade behind the bench in the AHL, NHL and Swedish league,” Carolina GM Ron Francis said in a release. “He has a proven history of helping to develop young players and understands the organizational culture that we are building here.”

Samuelsson, who won back-to-back Stanley Cups with Francis in Pittsburgh during the 90s, has spent the last three seasons as Alain Vigneault’s right-hand man in New York, helping the Rangers advance to the Stanley Cup Final in ’14 and the Eastern Conference Final last season.

Prior to joining the Rangers, he spent two seasons as head coach for Modo of the Swedish Hockey League.

Samuelsson will replace Mark Morris in Charlotte, after Morris accepted the head coaching gig at St. Lawrence University. Morris had only been on the job for one year, having inherited the position from former ‘Cane Jeff Daniels.

Report: Marleau won’t face supplemental discipline for hit on Rust

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It sounds like Patrick Marleau won’t be suspended for his hit on Penguins forward Bryan Rust (top) in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday night, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

After the game, Marleau told reporters that he was pretty confident he wouldn’t be suspended and it sounds like he’s right.

Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan didn’t see things the same way.

“It’s a blindside hit to the head,” he said. “[Marleau] gets a penalty and I’m sure the league will look at it.”

Marleau was given a two-minute penalty for an illegal hit to the head on the play.

Rust played a single shift after taking the hit, but he went to the locker room after that and didn’t return. Sullivan said he’s day-to-day. It’s unclear if Rust will practice with the team on Tuesday.

Former Flyer Rick MacLeish passes away at age 66

MacLeish
Flyers.nhl.com
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Former Philadelphia Flyers forward Rick MacLeish passed away on Monday night. He was 66-years-old. The organization confirmed the news early Tuesday morning. MacLeish was battling meningitis as well as kidney and liver problems, per Philly.com.

“With the passing of Rick MacLeish, the Flyers have lost one of their legends,” Flyers President Paul Holmgren said in a release. “A good father, grandfather, teammate and friend, Rick will be missed by all who were fortunate to come and know him over the years. His happy and friendly demeanor was front and center everywhere Rick went. Today, our thoughts and prayers are with Rick’s wife, Charlene, his daughters, Danielle and Brianna along with his grandchildren. May he rest in peace.”

MacLeish first put on a Flyers jersey during the 1970-71 season. He would go on to score 349 goals and 759 points in 846 NHL games with Philadelphia, Hartford, Pittsburgh and Detroit. MacLeish also scored what is considered to be the most important goal in Flyers history when he netted the opening goal in Game 6 of the 1974 Stanley Cup Final against Boston. The Flyers would clinch their first Stanley Cup that night.

He won a pair of Stanley Cups with the Flyers and was named an NHL All-Star three times in his career.

PHT Morning Skate: Nick Bonino has been pretty clutch this postseason

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Pascal Dupuis wrote a piece for The Players’ Tribune.

Matt Cullen also wrote a piece for The Players’ Tribune called “Hockey Dad”.

Dainius Zubrus is making his third trip to the cup final, but he still hasn’t won one. (Puck Daddy)

–Watch the highlights from Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. (Top)

–Here’s the Punjabi call of Nick Bonino‘s game-winning goal. (Streamable)

–Speaking of Bonino, he’s been pretty clutch this postseason:

–The NHL still wants to play an outdoor game on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. (Ottawa Sun)