Toronto Maple Leafs Poised For The Next Step

By Tony Ambrogio (@SNTonyAmbrogio)

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If the Toronto Maple Leafs are to have any success this season, they better work hard and compete.
It sounds like a cliché but it is a point that was repeated often Sunday morning, before the Leafs even hit the ice for the start of training camp.
“We are going to push guys a little harder. It’s going to be an intense camp,” said coach Randy Carlyle.
“We’re going to have a young group,” said GM Dave Nonis.  “You’re going to see some mistakes from some of the young players. But we can’t take nights off. And if we’re going to have any success at all, we have to be a committed team.”
“You talk about team toughness and being physically combative, it’s about winning one-on-one battles,” stressed Carlyle. “Our expectation is to win a fair share of those one-on-one battles.”
Carlyle said last year the Leafs failed to compete in “all three zones” and that will not be acceptable this year. That will make this 6-day training camp one that will feature plenty of skating drills and lots of attention to special teams and defensive zone coverage.
“We’re going to push this group a little harder in some areas where they normally haven’t been pushed,” said the head coach. “And that means that you’re going to have to win more of a one-on-one battles when you’re expected. That’s the reality of it. That’s where hockey has gone. You have to win the battles in the tight areas.”
Nonis likes the skill level of his team and the depth on defence.
Look for the Leafs first round pick last June, Morgan Rielly to be given a chance to make the team. Cody Franson has been re-signed but Jake Gardiner is not ready yet to start the year as he continues to be shut down by a concussion.
“The other aspect of it is it’s going to be just as important to prevent a goal as it is to score a goal,” said Carlyle. “Recognition of that is not going to be taken lightly.”
As far as the goaltending situation, Nonis gave James Reimer a strong endorsement.
“James is going to have to be prepared to step in and play Saturday (season opener in Montreal),” said Nonis. “We don’t need to make a move. Physically he looks real good, as fit as I’ve ever seen him.”
“There is only going to be a change in goal if we can upgrade without taking away very good players from our reserve list,” stressed the GM.
So as it sits now, it looks like Reimer and Ben Scrivens will be the goaltenders to start the season.
And Nonis has no plans to acquire a player – or players – if that impacts on the future.

“What people want is for us is to put a plan in place that will offer a team that will be competitive for years and to stick to that plan. As that plan is progressing, work as hard as we can to move it along. I don’t think we can do much more than that in terms of the on-ice hockey product.”

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