Early on in Brendan Shanahan’s tenure with the Toronto Maple Leafs, he met with the board and pitched his plan for a scorched earth policy. He wanted full control of the organization, players and personnel within to remake the Maple Leafs in his own winning vision. Now that his plan is ready to be put into full swing, Shanahan is going to heavily focus on the players.
It was a rough season, and the efforts of many of the players on the ice was questioned. It’s going to be a summer of great change throughout the organization. Players will be moved. The team that takes the ice next season should look drastically different after the summer overhaul is complete. If some of the veteran players are moved, it will be up to the young leaders on the team to step up and take their place to guide the team. Some displayed leadership last season. Others will need to ease their way into the new role.
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James van Riemsdyk
JVR is a Leaf forward who is primed to step into a bigger leadership role on the team. Already known as one of the team’s more skilled players, van Riemsdyk has slowly been easing his way into a player support role. The talented forward has put up good numbers for the Leafs and appears ready to breakout.
He has age on his side and also boasts a wealth of international experience that includes stints at the World Juniors, World Championships and Olympics. As he begins to enter his prime, he will be heavily leaned upon to set a good example on and off the ice.
Already looked to as the future of the Maple Leafs blue line, despite being only 21 years old, Rielly is primed for a bigger leadership position next season. As the season went sideways, Rielly remained one of the few bright spots on the team. You could tell by watching his facial expressions each game that he cares deeply and wants what is best for the team.
Rielly also had some leadership experience prior to being drafted by the Maple Leafs. He was the captain of his team at Notre Dame College, where he went before heading to the Moose Jaw Warriors. The Vancouver native was also an alternate captain for the aforementioned Warriors. The young defenseman will be a key cog moving forward on a revamped Leafs squad.
Assuming that Kadri signs a contract extension and will be around for next season, he needs to be ready to step up and become more of a leader on the Maple Leafs. The former seventh overall pick is no stranger to leadership and was an assistant captain with the London Knights of the OHL.
Increased leadership would be a good challenge for the young pivot, as he would not only be responsible for guiding the clubs younger players, it would assure that he puts any past indiscretions from this season behind him.
It’s going to be a big off-season for the Blue and White. Another factor that could heavily influence the leadership process is the hiring of new head coach Mike Babcock. The former Detroit bench boss has a way of getting the best out of his players and makes every single one accountable for their actions on and off the ice. Big changes are coming and it’s up to the players to adapt or suffer the consequences.