The Hockey Hall of Famer was introduced as Toronto's new president on Monday and says he's eager to get to work learning about the organization, which missed the playoffs after a late-season collapse.
"I have some ideas in my head about direction, but I think that at the same time ... those are subject to change," Shanahan said. "I think that it's very important for people, especially in sports, to have the ability to evolve and to make changes."
The 45-year-old Toronto native will oversee all team operations for the franchise. Shanahan, who will also be an alternate governor, had been working as the head of the NHL's Department of Player Safety.
He won three Stanley Cups and played for five teams over his long playing career.
Tim Leiweke, president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, says he knew he wanted a "hockey guy" to lead the Leafs' front office.
"I definitely sense that we lack an identity, and right now we're a team that lacks a direction and we want to change that," Leiweke said.
General manager Dave Nonis says Shanahan will "add a lot to the organization."
"I think we're both looking forward to moving forward," he said. "There's a lot of things we need to change."
Toronto wrapped up its disappointing season on Saturday night with a loss in Ottawa. The Maple Leafs looked as if they could make the playoffs in early March, but an eight-game losing skid down the stretch derailed their season.
Shanahan had 656 goals and 698 assists in 1,524 career NHL games for the New Jersey Devils, St. Louis Blues, Hartford Whalers, Detroit Red Wings and New York Rangers, winning the Stanley Cup three times with Detroit along the way.
He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in November.