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Brad Treliving’s Plan for The Toronto Maple Leafs Is About to Take Shape

Brad Treliving’s plan for the Toronto Maple Leafs is about to take shape. Finally. After being appointed as the team’s general manager, many have been curious about his intent moving forward. As a seasoned GM, he did not reveal much about his specific objectives during his initial press conference.

Treliving does not have the luxury of easing his way into the job. There is no shortage of important items on his “to-do” list. The upcoming National Hockey League Draft is a convenient hub for GMs to make transactions. With NHL Free Agency soon to follow, the rubber is about to hit the road. Now that he has had time to get acquainted with his new organization, Treliving’s plan for the Leafs is about to materialize.

Determine the Status of Sheldon Keefe

Treliving must decide what to do with head coach Sheldon Keefe. A definitive decision is needed, ideally before the draft and free agency. Potential free agents and current players want to know who will be leading them. Keefe has done nothing but set franchise records during his tenure behind the bench. Yes, the roster he has is more talented than any of his predecessors and his postseason success has been limited. Yet, the team has made strides in its defensive play, and potential replacements do not offer an upgrade.

Keefe should be maintained, but not extended long-term. With one year remaining on his contract, Treliving can observe and work alongside Keefe for the upcoming season and then decide if an extension is warranted.

Start Roster Decisions

By now, Treliving has an idea of what he wants his roster to look like and how he wants his team to play. Words like “aggressive” and “check” were prominent in his introduction to Toronto. This is not a new theory or philosophy. Many organizations preach the same principles, but it is an indicator of how one might expect Treliving to fill out the lineup. The Leafs appear set with their goaltending. They are routinely near the top of the league in scoring goals. Look for him to make changes on defence or with the bottom-six forwards.

Rather quickly, the Leafs have an aging backend. Many of their core pieces on the blueline are approaching or past the age of thirty. Being pressed against the salary cap limits what moves they can make, but perhaps assistant GM Brandon Pridham can weave his magic. Moving Jake Muzzin to long-term injured reserve to free up money or trading Matt Murray would provide needed flexibility. These machinations are the only way to add a significant free-agent piece.

Choose Building Blocks to Move Forward With

Treliving’s biggest decisions revolve around his long-term commitments to which players. This may not be known for some time. Auston Matthews is not likely to sign an extension until after July 1st. Making the Shane Doan hire was a prudent, savvy move, increasing the chances of a new deal. Unless Matthews asks for the moon in negotiations it makes sense to focus on him as a long-term building block. Top 5 league-wide players don’t come around too often. At this point, you take him at his word that he wants to remain in Toronto.

It gets interesting after Matthews. Treliving has mentioned the importance of talent and not making changes for the sake of something different. The team has two more years with John Tavares. Decisions on Mitch Marner and William Nylander are looming in the not-too-distant future. Maybe Treliving makes a bold move to acquire a familiar player that he likes, but expect Treliving’s first year with the Leafs to be uneventful while he learns what he likes and dislikes about this group. The next few weeks will offer some insight into his ideas, but Treliving’s big-picture plan might take more time.

Main Photo: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports


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