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Shanahan looking for Leafs to evolve and grow

March 27, 2020, 9:14 PM ET [63 Comments]
Mike Augello
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Hockey fans may have to wait until this summer to find out what the end result of the 2019-20 season will be, but right now all they can do is evaluate how their teams performed through nearly 70 games. The Toronto Maple Leafs have gone through a tumultuous season, with a slew of injuries to key players and a change behind the bench.

In an interview with The Athletic’s Jonas Siegel, Leafs Team President Brendan Shanahan reflected on the ups and downs that the club has gone through and their issues with consistency that saw them with a slim hold on a playoff spot when the league suspended play over two weeks ago.

“When you look at the (2-1 victory over Tampa Bay on March 10), to put it as simply as I can, I was impressed with how we reacted when our backs were against the wall, and yet I think what frustrated us as a team — including the players, management, fans — was that we kept on putting our backs against the wall so often.” Shanahan said. “I really in many ways attribute that to the growing pains of a young team that is sort of learning the importance of consistency. I would say that, aside from maybe one or two teams in the NHL, it was a season in which there were tremendous highs and lows for almost every team.”



Shanahan pointed to league parity and other factors like scheduling and rest as reasons why the Leafs and many other teams have encountered difficulty in being able to play at a high level throughout the season, but did not mention the structural issues that the club has shown on defense and playing against more aggressive teams over the last few years.”

The three-time Cup winner does not believe that the criticism of GM Kyle Dubas for constructing a team heavy on speed and skill and light on defense and sandpaper is accurate and that the Leafs still need to find a new level to their game that comes with more experience.

“I don’t think it’s so unusual, or groundbreaking, or experimental, to say that you’re trying to find, draft and acquire the best players possible. That’s not something that is unique or new. When you look at using some of the surplus of talent that we’ve either signed, drafted, or developed to go out and acquire veteran guys who bring a level of physicality to add to that core, I think it shows a reflection that, first off, you can’t do this all overnight and, second, that (those intangibles are) absolutely something that the team values and the team sees as an important part of games.” Shanahan said. "I think people might make the mistake of assuming that you also don’t see the importance and value of people with the size and strength of a Pierre Engvall, or the physicality of a Kyle Clifford, or the experience and physicality of a Jake Muzzin. And I also think at times, at any moment, you can take a snapshot of any team in the NHL and make an assumption that this is your final piece of work, when all of us teams are constantly looking at this as a work in progress.”

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