Prior to the opening of training camp, Leafs GM Dave Nonis and head coach Randy Carlyle met with the media to present the path the team will take as it moves forward.
Nonis made it clear that players would need to stay focused, that there would be no down time from the start of camp through to the end of the season.
“If (players) don’t understand the importance of the first seven or eight games, then they didn’t do very well in math. It’s going to be difficult for us or anyone else to take games off.” [x]
The biggest challenge for all teams this season is the lack of time to prepare. A regular season sees three or more weeks in addition to rookie camp and exhibition games available for teams to make their roster decisions before the season starts.
“We’re going to have to make some decisions after several days of practice based on performances from last year, based on how we’re going to want to play, what style we’re going to want to play. We’re going to probably make some decisions that may be surprising. We don’t know that, but there is a possibility that given this short time frame we have.” [x]
Randy Carlyle expects “the cream will rise to the top” as the week continues. In working with players from different levels, he stressed the importance of working with skill level and compete level, not pushing high performing players at a lower level up too soon. Doing so doesn’t benefit the team or the player.
“I think you have to put people in positions and in situation that they have the best chance for success and that’s no different than the environment that we’re trying to create,” Carlyle said. “It’s our responsibility as an organization and as a staff to create an environment for our players to have success in and that’s our mandate.” [x]
With regards to the tough guy role, Carlyle made it clear that the team is still determining if they’ll play a part in this season’s blue print for the team.
“If Colton Orr can come in and make a contribution to his strengths then we have to make a decision as a coaching staff. Is his contribution warranted in the situations that we’re going to be presented with? That’s what basically goes into the decision. Is Mike Brown in the same area? Is Leo Komarov in the same area? Those players that have those assets and have historically been able to use them, is it necessary to use them?” [x]
But what did Carlyle think when it came to the team’s “truculence”?
“If you want to use other exotic words that are not in my vocabulary from Sudbury, Ontario, add whatever you want. Competitiveness is the word that I like to use. I left the message with the players departing last year that we were not competitive enough in all three zones.”
Earlier in the day when Dave Nonis was addressing the press, he steered clear of truculence and kept it simple by saying: “The group has to protect the whole group.” He also stressed that it will be the team’s “compete level” that will determine the team’s identity this season.
James Reimer and Ben Scrivens were joined by OHL alumni and current University of Guelph backstop Brandon Maxwell, son of Brad Maxwell. He’ll be returning on Monday.
Morgan Rielly seemed to enjoy his first day at camp and was taking the most he could from the experience.
“It’s a cool opportunity to have as an 18-year-old and I’m just happy to be here. It’s always tough when you’re playing with some pretty good players that might have some more experience. (I’ll) just try to be confident and play my game and hopefully adjust a bit quicker to the pace and just play well.” [x]
Cody Franson, Keith Aucoin and Ryan Hamilton will be the final players to join the Leafs camp on Monday. Franson is in transit from Sweden, while Marlies Aucoin and Hamilton are returning from a weekend back-to-back in St. John’s.
Ryan Hamilton saw action with the Leafs for one game last season. As the captain of the Marlies, it’s hard for many to see past the idea that this call up is for reward only as he’s such an integral part of the AHL component of the organization. However, his record this season (17 goals, 26 points in 34 games) and effort on the ice as he leads the team makes him deserving of this shot.
As the Marlies’ team leader in scoring, and 5th in AHL scoring, Keith Aucoin’s call up shouldn’t surprise anyone. He’s now 10th in all-time points in the AHL, and is only 3 points away from moving into 9th. With 10 goals and 37 points in 34 games, he’d be a fantastic addition to the Leafs offence.
Jake Gardiner remains off the ice as he recovers from a concussion.
Soo Greyhounds left winger David Broll is not taking part in training camp though he had been promised a spot previously by Brian Burke. Lance Hornby mentioned “he was not having as strong an OHL season as the Leafs hoped” [x] however Broll has 14 goals and 37 points with a +6 record in 44 games this season. I think the Leafs might have been better off telling Broll the roster was jammed and he’d clearly have a shot when it was his time, possibly next year with four forwards with contracts expiring at the end of the season. My opinion.
Day One: Practice Lines
James van Riemsdyk – Tim Connolly – Joffrey Lupul
Phil Kessel – Tyler Bozak – Matthew Lombardi
Clarke MacArthur – Mikhail Grabovski – Nikolai Kulemin
Matt Frattin – Nazem Kadri – Leo Komarov
Mike Brown – Jay McClement
Colton Orr – David Steckel
That’s right. Kessel and Lupul are on different lines.