Toronto Maple Leafs | “We are not here to sell sweaters”

Patience seems to have reached its limit in Toronto.

At the conclusion of a long week of assessment, the club’s senior management could not have been clearer in its intentions for the future: no scenario is ruled out, especially not that of exchanging at least one of the big stars of the team.

Six days after the Leafs suffered elimination in the first round of the playoffs, and 24 hours after showing head coach Sheldon Keefe the door, the organization’s leaders spoke to members of the media local. They had left their white gloves at home.

Keith Pelley, CEO of MLSE, the company that owns the team: “We have to win, nothing else matters. (…) We are not here to sell sweaters. »

Brendan Shanahan, president of hockey operations: “The results we obtained, our players know it, we know it, I know it, are unacceptable. »


Brendan Shanahan, President of Hockey Operations

Brad Treliving: “We failed to achieve goals that I thought were achievable. (…) After a season like this, everything must be on the table. »

“Everything,” except perhaps parting ways with Shanahan and Treliving. Pelley extolled the virtues of “chemistry and unity” within his team, which must translate to the players and his acolytes in ties. Obviously, his two new employees convinced him to trust him. At least for now.

Speaking of confidence, or not, rather, we can immediately deduce that the members of the team’s offensive core must no longer take anything for granted regarding their future in the Queen City. Since the “ Core Four » – John Tavares, Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander – was brought together in 2018, the same formula invariably reproduces among the Leafs: an attack and a numerical advantage that are devastating in season, but which are running out of steam, even collapsing in series.

When a phenomenon occurs six times in seven series, we can certainly speak, as Brad Treliving did, of a “recurring pattern”. The only exception: the first round against the Tampa Bay Lightning last year, the only series won by the Leafs in 20 years.

“There is a time for patience, but we are at a point where we have seen history repeat itself so much that we must take a serious look at it,” added the CEO.

Probably the most eloquent answer of the roughly 45 minutes of the press briefing was the one Brendan Shanahan failed to give to the very last question he was asked.

“Can the existing core win? », asked a reporter. His interlocutor then reiterated what he had already said about eroded patience, unacceptable results and the reassessment of the troops based on “new information”.

The word he never said? ” Yes. »

Talent is no longer enough


Morgan Rielly (44), William Nylander (88), Mitch Marner (16), Auston Matthews (34) and John Tavares

The talent within this group is undeniable. To the four attackers who need no introduction, we obviously add defender Morgan Reilly.

However, to successfully transition from the season to the playoffs, talent is no longer enough, believes Brad Treliving.

It’s not like his team is struggling to score goals. In season, the Leafs even scored 20 more in 2023-2024 than the previous season, ranking second in the league in this regard. That’s not the problem.

“We have to find a way to succeed at things that are not sexy,” the manager said. Things that don’t require skill, but are necessary to win at this time of year. »

“There are season goals and series goals,” added Brendan Shanahan. I think that the goals in the series come from a defensive structure which limits the chances granted and which forces the opponent to open the game. (…) In the series, you have to go to the difficult areas (dirty areas) and experience success on the power play to gain momentum. »

“Is it systemic?” Treliving asked again. Or a personnel question? » He hopes to find the answer in the coming weeks. What he firmly believes, however, is that his players need a “new voice” to guide them to victory. Hence the change behind the bench.

The CEO also, unsurprisingly, had to answer questions about the viability of the business model in place, while four players – you know who – monopolize more than half of the payroll.

Refusing to “revisit history”, he prefers to approach the situation on a philosophical level. In any case, from a strictly pragmatic point of view, its room for maneuver is limited to the extreme by the non-movement clauses possessed by its stars.

“We are where we are,” he said. (Success) doesn’t just depend on a few players, but on the entire team. (…) Everyone is important, from the top of the food chain to the 23rde training player. »

Matthews, Marner, Tavares and Nylander “are very good players,” he agreed.

“But we need to find out why we end up with the same results every year and then adjust accordingly. »

The message, icy, is clear, without appeal. Will stocks be the same? That remains to be seen. In any case, the summer promises to be hot in Toronto.


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