Maple Leafs leadership group should watch each other

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They carry the « C », the « A » and the « $ sign » at the top of the Maple Leafs salary list.

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But D, E and even F could be the ratings applied to the leadership group in the first 10 games, most certainly in four of the five losses on the just-concluded Western road trip.

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Kyle Dubas and Sheldon Keefe deserve respective consideration for cheap ceiling moves that have yet to come to fruition and left little room for maneuver when injuries hit and for a string of flat starts. Then came Sunday’s late collapse in Anaheim.

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Unless you believe the Leaf stars are actually trying to get Keefe fired – remember, Dubas brought him in to break Babcock’s yoke – it’s up to them before the No. exerts additional pressure on all elements.

As the faces of the team that management puts in front of the cameras every day, that means there’s no need to blather about being in that same position last year. It’s time to be the game changers they were at that November gathering.

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« You can be frustrated all you want, it won’t help, » assistant captain Morgan Rielly said Sunday. “You can talk about a lot of different things, but it’s up to us. Players control the outcome.

« Nobody is making excuses, that it’s early, that it’s okay. We’re not saying that. We’re still focused on the fact that it’s a long season.

« We’re not going to try to turn away from anything, we keep going until we right the ship. We believe in the group, we have the individuals. It’s up to us to go out there and do it.

You can’t fault the exuberance with which Mitch Marner plays. In recent memory, few Leafs have embraced the Toronto hockey spotlight like he and Auston Matthews have. It also makes it harder for Marner to control his emotions when things go wrong, breaking his stick on the bench in anger.

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His response to media of all stripes who ‘tried to wreak havoc in our brains’ was a classic Mitch quote when he’s restless, but he confessed to brain cramps, one that led to a key goal in the comeback from Anaheim.

Matthews scored on Sunday, but three goals are still way behind his expected pace. He rushes shots and, at times, stays on the ice too long looking for the big play. If he is to sign here long-term and one day succeed John Tavares as captain, weathering those storms will be part of his description. From post.

« It’s like the world is crashing down on you and stuff, » Matthews said of the noise cut. « But I think within our group, our organization, we expect a lot from each other and have a level that we obviously have to raise.

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“It’s not the road trip we wanted. We have a lot of work to do and we have to get out of a hole. It starts with us, it starts with me.

Tavares, who everyone expected to be slowed by an abdominal injury early in the season, backed up his comments with 10 points, tied with William Nylander for team leader.

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He was asked during the trip if other clubs, seeing so many Marner, Matthews, himself, Rielly and Nylander, now had their numbers, in areas like the power play.

« That’s a good question. I know that every time a team has a strength like that for several seasons, your opponent will start playing on things to make it more difficult.

“For us, it’s about keeping the confidence, keeping the positivity. I don’t think anyone gets discouraged.”

But getting the stars to align on and off the ice will determine which direction the whole group takes in what has already been a turbulent fall.

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