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Healy: Culture change underway in Toronto

After a dramatic, late-season tailspin that transfixed hockey's biggest market, the Toronto Maple Leafs made some sweeping changes over the summer.

Surprisingly, the move many people expected -- the dismissal of coach Randy Carlyle -- didn't happen. Instead, the Leafs brought in Hall of Famer Brendan Shanahan as team president, axed Carlyle's assistants and added to their front office with analytics wunderkind Kyle Dubas, who will serve as an assistant GM following a devastating season during which the team was constantly hammered for its poor puck-possession statistics.

How does that all add up? Former Leafs goaltender Glenn Healy said the team appears primed for a culture change, starting with the added personnel that includes a crop of players who come with a hard-nosed, Western Conference pedigree.

The Leafs signed forwards Mike Santorelli, Daniel Winnik, David Booth, Matt Frattin and Leo Komarov (the latter two on their second tour as Leafs) in free agency this summer.

"I think they have certainly reshaped their team in a huge way," Healy told ESPN.com in a recent phone conversation. "They've added some players, particularly in the bottom-six position, to give them more balance and more depth. The players they picked up are Western Conference players. They've reshaped their focus."

Healy thinks they've also bolstered their defense -- the Leafs acquired Roman Polak via trade and added Stephane Robidas in free agency -- a necessity given the fact they spent too much time in their own end "whether that was systems [related] or execution."

Healy thinks they have more mobile, puck-moving players who should help in terms of lessening the load on captain Dion Phaneuf and star forward Phil Kessel, who played monster minutes throughout the season only to see their productivity decline when they needed it most.

That drop-off wasn't exclusive to those two, considering the entire team seemed to wilt down the stretch to fall in stunning fashion out of a playoff spot.

"Look at their season. The first 60 games is a glorious dance. The last bunch of games, the club falls right off the cliff. Whether or not there's not enough depth or too many minutes, or an inability to compete when games really matter, that is their focus," Healy said of the team's need to maintain some semblance of consistency.

Should the Leafs falter and get off to a slow start, Carlyle might be on a short leash.

"[Shanahan] brought in a guy like Steve Spott -- he's going to be an NHL coach," Healy said. "Randy's got some heat on him a little bit. He looks 10 feet to the right and there's an NHL coach. That's a big difference."

That said, Healy thinks Carlyle can be successful if those around him can reinforce his message with a different mode of delivery.

"I think Randy is a good coach. You don't win a Stanley Cup without having that ability to get it. He gets it. The shortfall he had was the other assistant coaches were the same voice as Randy," said Healy, who spent 15 years in the NHL, four with the Leafs.

"Any time a player comes off the ice, the message has to put him in a good spot mentally so he can affect the game on the next shift. If there's that constant yelling, constant overcorrection, at some point, as a player, you throw your hands in the air."

Healy thinks Shanahan's influence can be a steadying one and that his addition will pay dividends for the club.

"Brendan is a guy who is a proven winner," said Healy, who has worked as a successful broadcaster for both the CBC and TSN since retirement. "He's seen great organizations and how they were built. This isn't new to him. He has spent the past number of years watching hockey games as the league's discipline chief."

Beyond the front-office fortification, Healy thinks having the goaltending position solidified heading into camp should be a huge plus. Though the team has been plagued by goaltending controversy in recent years, the Leafs will enter this season with a clear-cut No. 1 goaltender in Jonathan Bernier.

Bernier had an impressive 2013-14 season, posting a 26-19-7 record with a .922 save percentage, though he was hampered by injury in the last month of the regular season.

"He's a quality goaltender for sure," Healy said. "I think what the Leafs need from him is that same level of quality, and he can't have an injury."

Should that happen, the Leafs should be able to earn a postseason berth. But in order for the club to make significant strides, that cannot be enough. Healy insists the standard must be much higher in Toronto.

"Making the playoffs, that's lovely, but that truly can't be your goal," Healy said. "Good teams expect to make the playoffs. Boston is not thinking about making the playoffs. They're thinking about lifting the Stanley Cup."