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Notes from Leafs Media Day

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With the NHL season now officially over, the Leafs‘ players and coaching  staff spent Monday afternoon cleaning out their lockers and addressed the media for the final time. Below is a recap of important comments made. It’s generally just the usual lines about how they plan to work hard during the offseason in preparation for a big  year but there are a few interesting tidbits as well. The full audio/video can be accessed in the LeafsTV archive on the Maple Leafs‘ official website. On to golf season!

Ron Wilson:

- Feels that the young players gained a lot of valuable experience from playing desperate teams fighting for their playoff lives down the stretch

- Giguere and Phaneuf provided tremendous leadership and really showed the young guys the kind of attitude and work ethic you need to win

- Was not able to go with the kids right from the beginning of the season because “you can’t just dump people”; wanted to give the veterans the benefit of the doubt and it did enable them to complete the Phaneuf trade

- Kessel needs to start working out to become stronger and fitter  in order to avoid these major/minor injuries; believes Phil will be better next season when he begins to trust his teammates more with the puck (esp. Bozak) and will work on getting open in the right spots at the right time

- Mike Komisarek is well into his rehab process and will be getting back to his conditioning program as early as July

- On how to get a better start to the season: would prefer to play fewer preseason games; was unable to start with the young kids who outperformed the veterans during training camp but does not anticipate facing this problem next season

- Challenge heading into next September will be how to balance practicing skills and exhibition game time because they will once again be facing 9 preseason games

- Phaneuf was a great influence in the locker room; providing a voice of leadership, ethusiasm and confidence during practice and games; expects him to be a focal point of the franchise for years to come

- Expects Nazem Kadri to be with the big club right from the get-go next season

Tomas Kaberle:

- Feels great mentally and physically; still considers himself to be “young” and feels he has a lot of hockey left to offer

- Feels that he could fit well into Ron Wilson’s system; would like to bring his game up to another level in order to hopefully contribute to the team next year

- Burke has always been fair to him in regards to trade negotiations; will talk to his agent about the merits of presenting a list of teams to Burke before his trade window opens up at the draft

- Attributed some of his second half struggles to being tired from playing so many games in such a short span at the Winter Olympics

- Would relish a leadership role if he is back next season

Phil Kessel:

- Does not have a preference in terms of who his linemates will be next season

- Suffered a small tear in his abdomen during the Boston game and will rest it; is unsure whether he will play for Team USA at the Worlds if asked

Jonas Gustavsson:

- Loves playing for the Leafs and loves the city; would like to re-sign with the team as soon as possible

- Had a good relationship with Toskala but felt that he could learn more from Giguere because they play the same style; learned a lot from watching him prepare in practice

Francois Beauchemin:

- Felt that 3/4 of the team, including himself, started trying to do too much when the team struggled out of the gate

- Was not pleased with his -13 rating but explains that he will never be a “plus” player because of his role as part of a defensive shutdown group against the opposing players’ top line every night

Jean-Sebastien Giguere:

- Was pleased with the team’s play down the stretch: 25 points in 20 games and that’s playoff pace

- Has a great working relationship on and off the ice with Gustavsson

- Over the last few weeks, he has been feeling like he’s 25 again: playing with a ton of energy and enthusiasm; enjoying coming to the rink everyday, something that he seemed to lose in Anaheim

- Likes Jonas’ combination of raw ability and passion; loves to compete with him in practice to see who can give up the least goals; feels that he has very good upside