Media Day Coverage Part 2: The Team Talks
As promised, here is the second part of my Media Day coverage. Part 1, which includes quotes from Schenn and Burke about Schenn’s deal can be found here. Now, I wanted to have quotes from all the guys, because weâ€™re not in the business of promoting individuals or star quality, but there were just too many interviews for two pieces. I think Iâ€™ve compiled the most interesting stuff so do enjoy. Starting this segment off is Matthew Lombardi.
â€œEven from a month ago, Iâ€™m feeling better than I was, my conditioning is getting better every day and Iâ€™m looking forward to it (the season), getting real excited for it.Â Letâ€™s just take it day by day. My goal is to be ready for the first game, if Iâ€™m not eventually things are going to work themselves out, itâ€™s just hard to put a day or a percentage on it.Â Itâ€™s been great to get here and spend some time with the guys, get to know them a little bit before training camp. There is just a really good energy going around right now and I think the guys are getting real antsy to start training camp. Itâ€™s exciting.â€
Lombardi also spoke about what was spending the season on the sidelines with Nashville like. If you ever played sports and were injured you know how difficult not practicing, not being around the team can be. Not to mention having to make progress in everyday life, such was the case with his concussion. Whenever he gets back, Iâ€™m sure the Leafs Nation will, along with the rest of NHL fans, be 100% behind this guy, because thatâ€™s the least he deserves after battling so hard to get back on the ice.
â€œMy comfort zone is a lot higher going into this yearâ€™s training camp. Iâ€™ve gotten to know the guys a lot better, the facility a lot better. These jobs will not be given, theyâ€™ll be earned and Iâ€™m sure every one of these guys is going into training camp looking to earn a job.â€
â€œIâ€™m four or five pounds lighter this year, and more explosive down in my lower body (there is a joke in there somewhere). Iâ€™m a lot leaner, quicker and hopefully it gives me a better shot of making the squad. Iâ€™m in the best possible shape I can be in and Iâ€™m ready to go.â€
â€œLast year I came in a little too heavy for my liking, I just focused too much about putting on those pounds and it kind of hurt me in the long run. Thatâ€™s why, this year, I kinda found a happy medium between my first camp and my second camp. My comfort zone and confidence is so huge.â€
Since early reports tell us a story about a leaner, meaner, more NHL ready Nazem Kadri, Iâ€™m inclined to believe his words. I also think this is his year, heâ€™s more hungry than heâ€™s ever been and Iâ€™m fully expecting him to make the roster.
â€œItâ€™s good to get back, Iâ€™m feeling good, everyoneâ€™s feeling good and ready to go. Iâ€™m glad the fitness testing is over, donâ€™t know how I did, but I stressed out a lot so I was probably winning at that. Iâ€™m pumped and looking to a new start this year. I spent almost the entire offseason in Toronto to soak in everything and get to know the city more.â€
â€œThe best practical joke I did was drive a guyâ€™s car very far away and he had to walk miles to get it back, which is actually not that good of a joke. But Iâ€™ve got a beauty I canâ€™t really talk about.â€
Colby remains a wonderful team guy. He also talked about a raccoon problem but donâ€™t worry Colby, Iâ€™m sure there are willing and able Leafs Nation members with a history of vermin removal. Although Iâ€™m not sure raccoons are actually vermin. Hm, a thing to ponder on I guess.
â€œI canâ€™t wait to get started. Obviously, I had some ups and downs last year. I want to prove myself a little bit more this year (why only a little bit more?). We made some key changes that are going to help our team a ton, our goal is to make the playoffs and I think everyoneâ€™s excited about how we finished last year.â€
â€œIâ€™m coming in a lot stronger, and am feeling a lot faster too. I improved on a lot of things and tried to work on my shot, get that a little harder plus a shot first mentality.â€
Obviously, good news for Bozie, as well as Leafs Nation. I do think he can be a long term Maple Leaf, but definitely has to progress and have a better season than last year. If he can do that and really excel as that third line center we have a very good chance of making the playoffs. If not, well Lombardi IS very closeâ€¦
â€œWeâ€™ve been skating for a few weeks now, with most of the guys so weâ€™ve been going pretty hard. Few people have been watching and they said it already looked like training camp.â€
Well, nothing quite speaks about a desire to win like early, voluntary team preseason training.
â€œLast year I kinda just came in December so I had to play catch up, so itâ€™s nice to have the full training camp this year. Physically I also feel a lot better. I was doing some yoga and pilates, stuff I never did before to kinda strengthen my core and back and I feel great, canâ€™t stress that enough.â€
A semi ready Lupul looked really good last year so Iâ€™m really looking forward to what a fully geared version looks like.
â€œIâ€™ve mostly worked on my strength, quickness, want to be more intense this year, more in your face and aggressive, if I do that I think I can make myself harder to play against. I think just coming to camp in good shape was my biggest goal.â€
I think someoneâ€™s was taking notes from the Burke manual. More intense, how can Aulie be more intense? And how can we not like it?
â€œHeâ€™s a great kid (James Reimer) and a great goalie, Iâ€™m looking forward to pushing him and heâ€™s looking forward to pushing me. Good competition is always healthy for a team, doesnâ€™t matter if itâ€™s the goalies, the defense or the offense, you need competition. Iâ€™m going to compete with him and also going to support him.â€
Just what we were hoping to hear. Glad to see our backup (for now) showing team first qualities. He knows heâ€™s going to get his chance at the No1 spot, but is also ready to put the needs of the team first and do what it takes to play here. Got to admire that.
â€œOur goal is to be a playoff team and the moves weâ€™ve made are definitely going to help us in areas that management thought needed to be addressed. Iâ€™m really happy with the moves that were made. Iâ€™m familiar with Lombardi, playing with him 3 years in Calgary I know what he brings. Heâ€™s a really fast shifty guy down the middle who makes guys that he plays with faster. You look at Connolly, heâ€™s a very shifty, very skilled guy whoâ€™s going to help us down the middle too. Iâ€™ve played against Liles a lot, he moves the puck so well and sees the ice very well, is always up in the play. As far as Franson goes, heâ€™s a big strong guy who can shoot the puck and put up some numbers from the back end.â€
Nothing less than knowing and having some positive things to say about the new teammates is expected of our captain and personally, Iâ€™m glad that he talked about each new player individually. Shows respect.
â€œI feel really comfortable in that role (being the captain), we werenâ€™t happy with missing the playoffs, but we take the positives from the way we did finish and how we played in the last 30 games. Everyone talks about how this team played better when we were out of the playoffs, how easy it is, but we werenâ€™t out of the playoffs, we were in the race until the last two games.â€
Finally. Someone went out and said it. We werenâ€™t occupying that 8th spot but we were pretty much in the race. If you look at the 2009-10 season, you can claim that team played better because of the pressure being off. We knew much earlier that the playoffs werenâ€™t going to happen. But last year was very different and I think all the players realize that.
â€œPersonally, if a guy makes more money, I donâ€™t expect more from him as a player, this isnâ€™t a per dollar type of thing. I want Luke to play exactly like he played last year and continue to improve. In our league, goaltending is obviously the most difficult position to play, but learning to be an NHL defenseman is a long process. We want him to just play hard defense, heâ€™s a stay at home, shutdown type guy and heâ€™s got to continue to excel at that.â€
The way we’re going to play this year is with more encouragement to the defense to be part of the offense and I think we’re going to see improvements in our style of play and as such Schenn will be able to put up better offensive numbers, but again, that’s not what I’m looking for.
Some offense would be nice, but what I think Wilson is implying here is they donâ€™t expect offense at the expense of defense. Heâ€™s got to be an shutdown guy first and if the offense comes with it, excellent, if not, itâ€™s not a big loss. But his primary assignment is, and always will be defense first.