Brendan Shanahan, the president of the Toronto Maple Leafs, remains optimistic despite the team’s less-than-ideal performance in the first quarter of the season. Speaking with TSN’s Gino Reda at a board of governors meeting in Seattle, Shanahan acknowledged that the Maple Leafs find themselves in the middle of the pack in the Atlantic Division with a record of 12-6-4. However, he emphasized that the entire league is experiencing unprecedented parity, making it challenging for any team to establish dominance.
According to Shanahan, discussions with other governors revealed that many teams are grappling with similar concerns. The absence of clear frontrunners or laggards, coupled with the stagnant salary cap in recent years, has intensified the competition on a nightly basis. Shanahan noted, “We’re all going through it. With the salary cap not growing the last few years, what was already a league of parity has become closer, night in and night out. It’s going to be a race to the end.”
Despite facing challenges, Shanahan believes in the potential for improvement. He expressed a desire for the team to rediscover its consistency and regain the form that led to two previous 50-win seasons and a clear path to the playoffs. The Maple Leafs have been engaged in close one-goal games recently, with six of their past seven contests decided by a single goal. Shanahan acknowledged both late-game collapses and exciting comebacks but highlighted the team’s progress in finding a more cohesive and effective game.
Addressing concerns about the team’s defensive capabilities, Shanahan refrained from undermining general manager Brad Treliving’s ongoing trade discussions. With defenseman John Klingberg potentially facing a long-term absence due to a hip injury and Timothy Liljegren unavailable, the Leafs are exploring options to shore up their back end. Shanahan commended the efforts of the Marlies’ call-ups, William Lagesson and Simon Benoit, and stressed the importance of dealing with the current roster while remaining open to potential improvements.
Shanahan acknowledged the character-building aspect of the Leafs’ high-stakes games, particularly those decided in the late stages. Despite not having their Core Four forwards in 3-on-3 or shootout situations during playoffs, he believes the team’s ability to fight back and secure points demonstrates their resilience. Shanahan noted that the team ranks among the top five or six for fewest regulation losses, underscoring their competitiveness over the course of a full season.
Regarding the contract negotiations with winger William Nylander, who is having a standout season, Shanahan remained tight-lipped, citing a collective silence on the matter. However, he expressed confidence in the team’s performance and urged fans to appreciate the players’ solid contributions, downplaying concerns about Nylander’s impending contract negotiations.
In conclusion, Shanahan sees brighter days ahead for the Maple Leafs, acknowledging the challenges of the current season while emphasizing the team’s resilience and potential for improvement.