© THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
New Toronto Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan attends a news conference in Toronto on Monday.
TORONTO — Brendan Shanahan is officially on the job in the Toronto Maple Leafs’ front office.
The Hockey Hall of Famer, who was introduced as Toronto’s new president and alternate governor Monday, says he’s eager to get to work learning about the organization, which missed the playoffs after a late-season collapse.
The 45-year-old Toronto native will oversee all team operations for the franchise.
“This is the time for me to start learning about the organization from top to bottom,” he told a news conference. “It’s a time for me to listen, to learn and get to work. That’s all that’s really worked for me in my career. That’s what’s worked for me when I was done playing hockey and that’s what I intend to do here.”
Shanahan, who won three Stanley Cups and played for five teams over his long career, had been working as the head of the NHL’s Department of Player Safety.
Tim Leiweke, president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, says he knew he wanted a “hockey guy” to lead the Leafs’ front office.
“We’re going to give him full authority,” said Leiweke. “Everybody on the hockey side, everybody on the business side for the Toronto Maple Leafs reports in to Brendan Shanahan. He’s the boss.”
That means Leafs general manager Dave Nonis will now have to answer to Shanahan but Leiweke is adamant there will not be a power struggle.
“I think we have two gentlemen who have been involved in this sport for a long time, they’ve known each other for a long time, and they will work well together,” he said. “If we have disagreements, the disagreements will be resolved very quickly within the organization. This isn’t going to tear the organization apart.”
Leiweke said one of the challenges for Shanahan and Nonis will be changing the culture in the Leafs organization.
“It’s no secret to those that have been around this organization in the last year, we’re big on character,” said Leiweke. “I spend a lot of time talking about culture and character.”
Leiweke pointed out that MLSE’s other franchises — basketball’s Raptors and soccer’s Toronto FC — have seen positive results after major organizational changes were made.
“I think a lot of that is the commitment we made to create the right environment, to hire the right people, to create the right culture,” he said. “I’m not sure the Leafs have it.”
Leiweke added that hiring a president was not a knee-jerk reaction to Toronto’s late-season slide.
“This was in the org chart last year,” he said.
Nonis says Shanahan will “add a lot to the organization.”
“I think we’re both looking forward to moving forward,” he said. “There’s a lot of things we need to change.”
Toronto wrapped up its disappointing season on Saturday night with a loss in Ottawa. The Maple Leafs looked like they were bound for the playoffs in early March but an eight-game losing skid down the stretch derailed their season.
The Leafs ended up 12th in the Eastern Conference.
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.
He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in November.