What Does Brendan Shanahan Bring to the Toronto Maple Leafs?

James Onusko@@jonuskoContributor IIIApril 14, 2014

Brendan Shanahan, NHL vice president of hockey and business development, speaks to reporters during the NHL General Managers annual fall meeting in Toronto, Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2010. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darren Calabrese)
Darren Calabrese

Much of what Brendan Shanahan was as a player is precisely what the Toronto Maple Leafs need on the ice right now. The Hall of Famer was smart, fearless, tough, defensively responsible and a scorer. 

The native of Mimico, Ontario retired in 2009, and at 45 years of age his playing days are behind him. Instead, Shanahan will be joining the Maple Leafs as the alternate governor and, most importantly, the team's president.

Shanahan was one of the top forwards of his generation. The 6'3" winger had soft hands around the net, but was also one of the most feared fighters of his time when the fists flew. He was an honest player who didn't back away from anyone.

His role was obvious, but Shanahan was never just a fighter, nor just a scorer for that matter. He had the opportunity to win three Stanley Cups, and just as importantly he was able to learn from some of the best minds in the game.

New Jersey's Lou Lamoriello and the Detroit Red Wings' Ken Holland were the top men in their respective organizations. There can be no doubt that the very bright Shanahan took a lot away from those experiences with both the Devils and the Wings.

Beyond his hockey-playing days, Shanahan proved to be very good as the league's disciplinarian over the past few seasons. He updated the system in explaining his decisions in detail, which took the process to a whole new level of much-needed transparency. 

Here's a great example of his work in explaining the Raffi Torres suspension.

Shanahan proved beyond a doubt that he could swim against the current and make difficult decisions with a white-hot light shining on him. This quality will serve him well in the circus that is the Toronto media scene.

One area that Shanahan must apply this open thinking to is analytics. As James Mirtle reported in The Globe and Mail last November, Dave Nonis remains skeptical of advanced statistics. Quite simply, this must not continue as this element of analysis needs to be employed.

It would be very surprising if a thinker like Shanahan turned a blind eye to such vital statistics.

Virtually all of the top organizations have multiple layers of decision making, and Shanahan will be tasked with working closely with both the Leafs' general manager and head coach.

He'll also need to provide a broader vision than what a general manager conceives and be an ambassador for the organization on several levels.

While they may not state it publicly, the Leafs will have a very similar model to what the Boston Bruins have used for several seasons. Much like Cam Neely, Shanahan will be able to advise Nonis—or whoever else is in charge, should he decide to fire the current GM—and provide insight to Toronto's head coach when necessary.

The parallels between Neely and Shanahan, particularly as players, are obvious and the Bruins are one of the flagship franchises in today's NHL.

Ultimately, Shanahan knows the inner workings of the NHL like few others. He has a confidence and swagger that should make everyone in the organization just that bit more effective. 

If he can help bring in a few players that played the game like he did—easier said than done with Toronto's cap issues—the move will more than pay off over time.