Another season of Toronto Maple Leafs hockey is right around the corner, and the team is already fielding questions regarding their well-known shortcomings in recent years, capped by last season's collapse against the rival Montreal Canadiens.
Thanks to his historic campaign, forward Auston Matthews became the first Leafs player in 75 years as well as the first United States-born player in 24 years to lead the NHL in goal scoring. Unfortunately, that success wouldn't carry over to the postseason, as he failed to make any significant impact for Toronto during their stunning Round 1 series loss against the Canadiens, registering just one goal and four assists in the seven games played. Meanwhile, Mitch Marner didn't fare much better after registering 67 points during the regular season.
“It's easy to say you believe in something when everyone's very optimistic [about it early on], but true belief is tested when things are a little bit harder, and there's struggle and they fall, and you have to pick yourself back up and continue to move on," explained GM Kyle Dubas. "And that's how I feel about the group. I think that that group in there will win if we can continue to build and progress day to day, especially coming off the things of the past, and rolling ahead into the season and being focused on being the best we can be. I've seen massive maturity from all our young players. I believe in the group, deeply.”
The team that hits the ice this fall will look a bit different, as there are several new faces on the roster along with a couple of familiar names who have departed. With a new goaltender in the crease teaming up with Jack Campbell in the form of the talented Petr Mrazek along with former 2014 1st round draft pick Nick Ritchie fighting for a top role on the team. However, Dubas declined to get into specifics regarding whether or not he was fielding calls on the availability of his team's star players.
“I'm not going to get into specific calls we get on specific guys. But the belief we have in that entire core is unwavering. In this job, you always have to consider [how to get] better and nothing came along from the end of our [first-round] series to today that I believe would have made us better. I believe when these big moments come [next], they are going to be at their best and they are going to have success.”