According to a report from TSN hockey insider Frank Seravalli, the Toronto Maple Leafs have hired former Florida Panthers assistant general manager Eric Joyce to act as as the Leafs' Director of Hockey Strategy.
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Call me crazy but... director of hockey strategy? Isn't that the head coach's job? Isn't Sheldon Keefe ALREADY the director of hockey strategy for the Leafs? In any case, it seems that Joyce, Keefe and who knows who else will team up together on strategy for the Leafs this upcoming season.
For what it's worth, Joyce has had an interesting route to the NHL. He's a U.S. Military Academy graduate and served in Iraq before being brought into the Panthers organization by owner and former Westpoint grad Vinnie Viola. Joyce served as an assistant under Panthers GM Dale Tallon until Bill Zito was hired as the team's new GM earlier this offseason. According to Patrick Johnson of The Province newspaper in Vancouver, Joyce was utilized somewhat as a counterbalance to the old school GMing style of Tallon. While Joyce wasn't fully on board with the analytics that earned the Panthers front office the "Computer Boys" moniker, he is described as a persuasive debater and a "bit of a contrarian". What exactly his duties will be in his new position with the Leafs remains to be seen, but his unique background and his new title make him an absolutely fascinating hire by the Leafs.
Don't kid yourself though... Joyce isn't some pencil pushing nerd. He's a hockey player through and through. A rugged blue-liner for the Military Academy Black Knights, Joyce still ranks third all-time at Army in career penalty minutes (264). In one game against UMass Lowell, Joyce reportedly threw a particularly thundering check that both broke an opponent’s collarbone and caused Joyce’s skate blade to fly off. “It sounded like a bomb,” says Kevin Emore, his defensive partner.
“Way too smart and way too honest, which I think makes him good at his current job. That’s what you need,” says Joe Quinn, a former classmate of Joyce’s and his co-teacher at the Combating Terrorism Center. “He’s the complete opposite of a computer guy. He’s a hockey player from Dorchester. It so happens he’s got a 50-pound brain.”