It is easy to say that the Toronto Maple Leafs have benefited from the change of head coach as Sheldon Keefe has brought a new dynamic to the dressing room.
One that has to be thankful for the change is veteran forward Jason Spezza, who less than a month ago was getting pushed on the trade block in Toronto by a coach who didn’t look interested in using him on the ice. We all know it wasn't rosy between him and Mike Babcock.
Speaking ahead of last night’s game against the Flames in Calgary, here are some of the statements that came off Spezza’s chest in an interview with Sportsnet:
“Coming here, I just wanted a role. I wanted to be a part of the team, and I knew I’d be a guy who can move up and down the lineup, help out and fill holes with injuries. I want a chance to win. That’s why I came here.
“Opening night was definitely a little different, but I came here to try to win. And if you want to have a good locker room, when things don’t go your way, you have to keep your head above water. You have to keep everybody else positive.
“If you ask my wife how I felt about it, she gets the truth [chuckles]. If you ask my teammates, you try to make it seem as little as possible. That’s the reality of the situation, and that’s why I’m obligated to do that — because I want to be in a positive dressing room.
“Even with the last couple games with Babs here, I was forced to play more because we had injuries — and if I wasn’t ready, then who knows where that would have put me?
“If you see a guy sagging a little bit, I take it upon myself to talk to a guy. Some guys come to you with questions — it’s more casual than formal. Sometimes you see a guy sagging with confidence, or you see a guy that’s not happy with how things are going. And that’s my job, to recognize that and to help them.
“Our team as a whole is playing with more pace and a little more enthusiasm. I think we’re growing our game to what Sheldon wants us to play.
“There’s maybe more communication with the coach now, but I don’t know if it’s worth comparing before and after.
“Now I’m in the lineup every night. And then I wasn’t. So, yeah, I have a bigger impact in the room and everywhere just because I’m playing. And then you get to see things. You get to see how the room’s reacting, and that’s where you really can use your experience. When you’re out of the lineup, you’re just trying to stay out of the way and stay upbeat and trying to keep yourself sharp.
“It was frustrating not being the lineup at the start of the year, but now I’m in the lineup, we have a good team, and we’re trying to build, and it’s fun to play.”
What do you make of all this?