The Leafs began their three day getaway in Trenton yesterday. From what players and management have said, they’re buying into this trip as their chance to embark on some crucial group bonding. With a mix of kids, newcomers and a renovated coaching staff, there are a number of things that have changed since Toronto’s remarkable second half run last season. Brian Burke and his colleagues are well aware of the determination, effort and subsequent success that arose as a part of this young squad’s camaraderie and budding identity as a hockey club.
Thus, this seemingly carefree trip (including some heartwarmingÂ interaction with the locals) is clearly part of a concerted effort to further the joint growth of this club, while easing the integration of the new faces. Â At times it may feel foolish to be discussing the concrete benefits of what amounts to the feelings of players, especially with respect to something as vague and undefinable as battle-testedÂ camaraderie, known in the NHL universe as “a good locker room”. Â But to appreciate the true benefits of a team that succeeds in this area, you really need to look no farther than Mikhail Grabovski’s revelations on how bad it can get be in some NHL locker rooms:
Everybody made a group, and they [stayed] in groups; French guys with French guys, Czech guys with Czech guys. Here [it's] better because everybody’s together. It doesn’t matter what kind of nationality.
The inherent drawbacks of sometimes-inevitable nationalistic clumping arise often, but are already reduced on a Toronto squad that has a vast majority of North American players. Â Those that aren’t, such as Grabovski and his running-mate Nikolai Kulemin, are young players characterized by hard work and eagerness, that have been presented with a situation that is more rare than you would think in the NHL: Â a team full of players ready to willingly befriend any that join the fold.
Hard work and a desire to win is all that is required, as this incarnation of the Leafs have gladly embraced players that run a wide gamut of pure hockey skill. Â This team is neither deep nor skilled enough to skate by at less than maximum effort on any given night if the playoffs are going to be an achievable goal. Â That’s why it’s decidedly comforting to see management tackling the situation head-on, with what appears to be a locker room that truly buys into this club-wide vision and will now have to translate it into on ice success.
Ron Wilson speaks to the media in Trenton: