Brendan Shanahan on New Maple Leafs, Team Growth and Next Step for Auston Matthews

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On the eve of another Maple Leafs regular season opener, team president Brendan Shanahan held a virtual meeting with reporters on Tuesday to discuss a range of topics, including why the Leafs’ only goal this year should be a championship race.

“I think it’s important for our players not to focus on something other than the ultimate,” Shanahan said. “Almost every team starting the season in the league is competing for the Stanley Cup, [and that’s] will be played on the ice. It will not be said here today nor decided here today which threshold we would consider successful or not. [other than a Cup win]. »

As the Leafs wrapped up their last day of on-ice activities before facing Montreal on Wednesday, Shanahan shared her thoughts on what Toronto has done so far in preparation for the upcoming 56-game season, and how it can. take steps forward as a franchise.

On whether Toronto will follow the lead of the Ottawa Senators and make a proposal to the Ontario government to allow fans to enter the building this season

“These are not conversations we are having right now. In Toronto, we try to start at the Scotiabank Arena without the fans present during games. We look forward to the day when [fans] are in the arena. When they’re in the arena, the most important point is that it’s a reflection that our community as a whole needs to do a lot better. When our fans can safely return, it will be dictated by Toronto Public Health, the Ontario Ministry of Health and Health Canada.

Make the Leafs a Cup contender

“When you look at some of the changes that have been made, the player acquisitions and the messages that [head coach Sheldon Keefe] from the start of training camp to our players, [we’re] talk about heightened physique, talk about habits, talk about competitiveness and talk about a structure that we will build from the first day of training camp until the regular season, in the hope that you are laying the groundwork for the habits of the Stanley Cup championship teams in the past all have. And the regular season this year is extremely important to all of us. It’s going to be a sprint. It’s also a unique situation on and off the ice. But I think besides trying to fight and position yourself and lay those foundations and habits in the regular season, everything is done with the intention of being successful in the playoffs as well. ”

On what it takes to get Toronto past the first round of the playoffs

“I said many years ago that the easy part is making a plan and the hard part is sticking to it. But I think that’s what you need to do. You just have to keep looking for ways to improve, to look for ways to evolve, to look for ways to grow, to be mindful of the game, and where the game is evolving, because you have to watch [at it all because] what might work for you a year from now may need to be adjusted the following year. You just keep going back to the well and keep trying until you get it right, and then of course you hope it leads to a great run. And that is to stick to it and stick to it. This is obviously a much better solution than holding back and saying it’s too hard and we won’t try again because it’s too hard.

On Keefe who puts his mark on the Maple Leafs

“He identified a few things in his first offseason as a head coach. He had a hand in some of the players who were brought in that he wanted. He was specifically looking at some of the things that he felt our team lacked and that our team needed to improve. Obviously, the focus is also on returning players, just their growth as well as professionals, [with] habits that we believe can make you successful in the regular season. His messages from the very start of camp are all made with the intention of having a very strong regular season. If we do these things then I think we can become a more cohesive team and that’s important for us. We have seen games in the past where we will play and [think] that the style we played that night was elite, and you can win the playoffs with that kind of game. I think with growth and our team evolving and becoming real pros with that consistency comes with that, and that’s what you see with previous Stanley Cup winners. So that’s what we want to achieve. ”

On the impact of the additions of autonomous agents such as Joe Thornton, Wayne Simmonds and Zach Bogosian on the team

“I’m really glad there were guys who came back to Toronto, came back to their hometown. I think it hasn’t always been that way in the past, but there were some guys who wanted to come here and be a part of it. There is a great passion here in Toronto and we feel very lucky to play here. This is something that we are all determined to do, and it was important that more people come on board and join this quest. So to be very specific, add guys like Joe, Bogosian, Simmonds; they all come here for a reason to complement the group that we already have and to create other elements and to take us to the next level. It is hope.

On the sequel for Auston Matthews

“He’s an elite group scorer in the National Hockey League, but I think what impresses so many people about his game is how complete he is. He took a real interest in becoming, as they say, a 200-footer, a full-fledged NHL hockey player. This is the kind of player you can use in any situation. I love that Sheldon is bringing the penalty into his game here, I think it’s a great message for the team that your best players are not only supposed to score goals, but also have to defend. You look at a guy like Mitch Marner, I would put Mitch in the same company as a guy who’s an elite offensive player but really turns into an elite defensive player. It is therefore an important aspect for our team.

“We know we can score. We know that we also have a lot of very talented players who not only can play well defensively but develop that side of their game so that we can become a team that is harder to score against. an important part of our growth.

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