<
>

Shanahan: Leafs not afraid to make a move

TORONTO -- Brendan Shanahan broke his media silence Friday, but first he shared an audience with his players.

And we’re guessing the address inside the Toronto Maple Leafs dressing room was a little less polished than the one we got in the news conference.

"It was a good time to remind them what their expectations are," the Leafs president told a media conference Friday.

"How they’re going to be defined is really up to them at this point. I also wanted to make it very clear to them that we’re watching and we’re on it. ... We’re not going to be a [management] group that’s going to be afraid to act if we feel it can make us better."

It’s apparent Shanahan has seen enough to have begun to shape opinions on what needs to be done here.

The question is, does he feel this team needs a full rebuild or a retooling or just some tweaks?

"We have a very strong idea of where we need to go," Shanahan answered when asked that very question.

"We certainly have a good feel for what we’ve seen so far; we don’t always share our thoughts and opinions because you can have a plan and your plan might change. We recognized that as well. This is another good opportunity for us to see what our guys are made of."

Shanahan has purposely kept out of the media spotlight in his first season at the helm, telling ESPN.com during the preseason that he didn’t come to Toronto to seek headlines or media attention. He wants his people to be able to do their jobs without the appearance that the boss is undermining them.

Having said that, his silence earlier this week when head coach Randy Carlyle was fired was duly noted, not just by media and fans, but even by team executives around the league.

Perhaps understanding that his voice was needed in a drama-filled week (when isn’t it drama-filled in these parts?), Shanahan took the podium Friday.

The Leafs president was asked right off the hop to clarify how the power structure works when it comes to decisions like firing a coach. Is it his call? Or GM Dave Nonis?

"We have a good management team, it’s a diverse group, I think that we talk about things and we share opinions," said Shanahan. "It’s not any one person. ... We discuss it as a group.

"Generally speaking, when we do have a big decision to make or direction we want to go, we discuss it as a group. And I think Dave felt it was his job to make that call and I agree with him. He’s the general manager. He made that call and he made the announcement."

Shanahan confirmed what has been assumed, that with Peter Horacheck named interim head coach, the Leafs’ long-term coaching decision will be made after the season, which will allow the club to go after some big-name candidates.

"We’re going to wait until the offseason now," said Shanahan. "I’ve been pleased with the early reports from Peter. Peter will be one of the people that we will consider at the end of the year, but we’re going to wait until the end of the year."

With the coaching change made, now the spotlight falls squarely on a roster that has found ways to confound and disappoint over the past few seasons.

The clock is ticking on some of these Leaf players, and it sounds as if Shanahan reiterated that to them Friday.

"There is a lot more pressure on them, and they know it," said Shanahan.

"We’re going to learn a lot of things about our core in the coming weeks."

A source told ESPN.com on Thursday that the Leafs are looking to add a top-nine forward who plays a strong two-way game. But the reality is, it’s clear that management is pretty open-minded now. There are no untouchables on this roster.

"One of the things we expressed to the players today was, 'While we were sitting watching and viewing, we’ve seen the good and the bad. And at a certain point, you’re going to tell us who you are. And we’re not going to be afraid when that time comes, if we have an opportunity to make that team better,'" Shanahan said.

The team’s woeful defensive performance, a recurring issue that’s plagued this club for a few seasons, is not surprisingly at the heart of management’s frustration.

"The message we’re trying to pound home to our players is that 'you really have to be more sound defensively,'" said Shanahan. "Being where we are in goals against, being where we are in shots against, it’s not acceptable."

Which is tied to Shanahan’s desire to see his team improve in the puck possession department.

"Our focus is also on playing defense less often; we have to have the puck more," he said.

Changes are coming. That much is clear.

"We certainly have plans for this club," said Shanahan. "We’ve seen a lot of things so far. We know we’re going to see more in the coming weeks. We know those decisions are coming up, we’re on it, we’re prepared."

Buckle up, the fun is just starting.