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Simmer’s Skate: Would Canucks Fans have Fired Shanny and Dubas

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Vancouver Canucks foes, Shanahan Dubas
Vancouver Canucks fans would have at least been booing Brendan Shanahan and Kyle Dubas by now.

I’m wondering how Vancouver Canucks fans feel about these developments with their least favourite team.

Maybe it’s the fashionable glasses. In 2018, the Toronto Maple Leafs moved on from Hall of Famer Lou Lamoriello, who moved on to the New York Islanders, while keeping young Lamoriello mentee Kyle Dubas around to run the storied franchise. Apparently something about analytics.

So Lou, as Lou’s been known to do, moved down to Brooklyn and resuscitated a stumbling, bumbling non-playoff NHL franchise in short order, hiring Barry Trotz as head coach and watching his new team go 48-27-and-7 and reach the second round of the playoffs and then consecutive Eastern Conference Finals in his first three years.

In Toronto, team president Brendan Shanahan’s nifty little pet project from 2014, setting up Sault Ste Marie-south with Dubas, the former Ontario Hockey League (OHL) general manager with the Soo Greyhounds, and a few of his pals, including current Maple Leafs and former Greyhounds head coach Sheldon Keefe, continues on.

Neato.

Shanahan has been on the job since 2014 as well, heading up north from New York City where he worked for almost five years learning how to be a hockey executive following his days as a Hall of Fame player. It started in a little cubicle on the 12th floor of the NHL’s Manhattan headquarters.

Within a year-and-a-half he was a Senior Vice President overseeing the player safety and disciplinary section of hockey op’s. Four-and-a-half years after arriving, he moved north and took over as President of the Maple Leafs.

Since taking over operations with the blue and white, things haven’t gone as well. Three years of no playoffs followed by six (!) consecutive first-round playoff exits, including 2021 with a loss to the dreaded Montreal Canadiens in Game-7. While 2020 technically wasn’t even the first round, it was the Covid bubble year and the unofficial playoff ‘qualifying round’.

Think about it – had this been the Vancouver Canucks, all things considered, would these gent’s still have their gigs?

When they got bounced on home ice again in 2022 in Game-7, no booing, no chanting, no nothing. Are Leafs fans the Stepford Wives (worth googling) of the NHL?

I can think of a few good reasons why nothing dramatic has occurred. Maybe the fact that the Maple Leafs print money. The tipsy star-struck business executives who watch half the game on monitors in the bars downstairs at the rink rather than from the ‘gold seats’, are mostly there to conduct business. The real fans, ‘the unwashed yet very faithful masses,’ rarely get a chance to afford a game, and when they do, it’s like Christmas. A very expensive Christmas.

So why upset the machinery and the stockholders with some ugly, sticky, ‘firing of Shanny’ affair, especially when it would mean ousting a Hockey Hall of Famer who’s a boy from Etobicoke, Mimico specifically, a community just west of Toronto along Lake Ontario. That would be bad. Upsetting. Unsettling.

Are the executives at Rogers and Bell, who each oversee 37.5% of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment just such jock-sniffers they can’t get out of their own way? Or maybe it’s Larry Tanenbaum, most likely, who owns the other 25% on his own and makes the decisions ultimately, who’s super cool with the status quo. I mean, Shanny is buddies with Larry’s pal Gary Bettman.

As for Dubas, no explanation here. None fathomable. His great hockey mind?

Imagine Vancouver Canucks fans; “Doooooooooo, bus! Doooooooooo, bus!” Has a nice ring to it.

Whatayaknow, the Leafs aren’t sure about their goaltending, again. Whatayaknow, the Leafs aren’t really difficult to play against.

So what is this about, Maple Leafs? Fill the coffers in the regular season with your juggernaut and then put out that dandy regular season team in the playoffs.

Pssst: ‘You don’t win the Cup in the regular season, best Maple Leafs team ever or not.’

I covered the club on a regular basis for a solid handful of years off and on, and I recall more than one person saying to me: “they don’t give a $%#&? whether they win or lose, they’re just worried about feeding the stockholders.”

Oh come on, don’t be so cynical, I wouldn’t say. I don’t speak a lot in those situations, I just listen.

Next year? One more first-round playoff exit? Enough? What if they sneak into the second round? Who knows, maybe this article is one year premature.

Star scorer and occasional playoff ragdoll Auston Matthews has his full no-movement clause kick-in on July 1st, 2023, one year before his current contract expires. Some big decisions to make for the lad in the cool, black spectacles, including this off-season.

I can think of some NHL fans, ahem, Vancouver Canucks, who would have shut it down by now. At least booed or chanted themselves hoarse.

Part of the fun, or not, of being a fan.

VHN Managing Editor Rob Simpson has been covering the NHL for three decades on live TV, radio, and as a journalist. He worked his first ever game getting postgame sound as a teenager; it was Vancouver vs. Detroit.

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