TORONTO – With the Maple Leafs now searching for their next general manager, it’s no secret that they’d prefer to find someone who has occupied the chair before.
They’ve reached a stage in their competitive cycle where the next move isn’t obvious and the need to take a step forward has grown urgent. That makes it difficult to thrust a first-timer into the position, especially at the precipice of an off-season with so many crucial decisions looming.
Now, it’s worth noting that there may not be as many fireworks in Toronto as some expect this summer.
Leafs president Brendan Shanahan personally phoned players to inform them he was cutting ties with former GM Kyle Dubas on Friday, and the feeling coming out of those calls was that Shanahan was inclined to forge ahead with the “Core Four” forwards still in place next season, according to sources.
That helps contextualize a comment he later provided to reporters when asked if he shared Dubas’s view that everything should be on the table for the organization after another disappointing playoff exit.
“What I took from Kyle’s comments [is they] were accurate and honest, which is without making any promises we will look at everything in the organization and try to make decisions that will make us better,” Shanahan explained. “That might not be on the timeline that everybody wants: It might not occur just this summer, it might occur during the season, it might occur on the next trade deadline.
“But just being different doesn't solve something.”
Things will definitely look different in the executive suite following the Dubas departure.
Shanahan is expected to start conducting interviews for the job opening this week.
While there is believed to be a small amount of wiggle room in his assertion that “having an experienced general manager would be an attractive quality” – the Leafs may ultimately end up giving some consideration to those with extensive front-office experience even if they’ve never previously been a GM, as is the case with current AGM Brandon Pridham – there’s a clear sense that the strength of CV will carry considerable weight in this search.
As such, we’re narrowing in on those who have previously made difficult decisions from the GM’s chair.
Here are five candidates for the Leafs to consider:
Last Job: Calgary Flames General Manager
Experience: Nine seasons as a NHL GM with Calgary, plus another seven with Arizona as Assistant GM and Vice-President of Hockey Operations
The Scoop: Believed to be the favourite for the Leafs job, in part because of his availability but also due to his extensive background working in a Canadian market. While Treliving’s Flames teams never got beyond the second round during his time there, he did prove himself capable of pulling off bold trades and making franchise-altering decisions. He’s also an excellent communicator with a wide network of contacts in the industry. Ticks basically every box the Leafs are looking for.
Brad Treliving has permission to talk to the Maple Leafs about their vacant GM post, but it’s with the understanding he cannot participate in any discussions about the draft or amateur scouting until after the draft.— Eric Francis (@EricFrancis) May 20, 2023
Despite reports to the contrary, he’s had the same permission…
Current Job: St. Louis Blues General Manager and President of Hockey Operations
Experience: 18 seasons as a NHL GM with St. Louis and Dallas, plus another nine in Dallas/Minnesota as an Assistant GM
The Scoop: Let’s call this a wild card in the deck because Armstrong is still gainfully employed. He’s actually under contract through 2025-26 in St. Louis. Despite that, there’s been industry buzz about the possibility of Armstrong coming to Toronto since the Dubas news came down. And why not? He would be the steadiest hand Shanahan could possibly find and would bring a Stanley Cup pedigree to an organization still trying to climb that mountain. Would St. Louis actually let him go? Would Armstrong actually want to make that jump? Would it require the Leafs to surrender an asset to get him? Still more questions than answers here.
Current Job: Seattle Kraken Assistant GM
Experience: Three seasons as a NHL GM with Buffalo, plus another 14 split between Dallas, Pittsburgh and Seattle as a Scout, Director of Hockey Operations and Assistant GM
The Scoop: Botterill’s rocky tenure in Buffalo has taken on a better look since he left. He is, after all, the GM that drafted future Norris Trophy winner Rasmus Dahlin and traded for 47-goal man Tage Thompson, among other moves. He also played a key role in helping the Penguins win two Stanley Cups while working under Jim Rutherford and was recently in consideration for Pittsburgh’s open GM job. He’s almost certain to get another shot at running a team, with the biggest question for the Leafs upper brass being whether he has enough experience to give them comfort at this pivotal moment in their history.
Current Job: Los Angeles Kings Senior Advisor
Experience: 10 seasons as a NHL GM with Montreal, plus another seven in Chicago spent as a Scout, Assistant Coach, Director of Player Personnel and Assistant GM
The Scoop: By the end of Bergevin’s decade-long run in Montreal, he had clearly grown weary of the constant spotlight and public chatter that accompanied the job. That’s probably the biggest strike against bringing him to Toronto. However, if you take a close look at his record, Bergevin owns a tremendous trading history and obviously knows what it’s like in the trenches of a white-hot hockey market. If he has any appetite remaining to jump back into the fire, he merits serious consideration.
Last Job: Chicago Blackhawks General Manager and President of Hockey Operations
Experience: 13 seasons as a NHL GM with Chicago, plus another four as the team’s Assistant GM/Director of Hockey Operations
The Scoop: Still not officially cleared by the NHL to resume working because of his role with the Blackhawks during the Kyle Beach scandal, Bowman has started to receive interest from other teams with vacancies, including the Calgary Flames during their recent GM search. It’s not yet clear if the Leafs would be willing to consider him for an interview. Bowman had a hand in Chicago’s three Stanley Cup championships and has extensive experience for someone his age. He must get approval from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman before being able to take another job in the league.
Those with NHL GM experience not listed: Jim Benning, Peter Chiarelli, Paul Fenton, Chuck Fletcher, John Ferguson Jr., Mike Gillis, Ron Hextall, Scott Howson, Dean Lombardi, Ray Shero, Garth Snow, Darryl Sutter, Dale Tallon and Doug Wilson.