Kyle Dubas and Mike Babcock are spurring on Nazem Kadri for a big year next season, Elliotte Friedman is expecting a motivated Leaf group, and more in the links.

The one thing that’s got me interested is how many guys are going to play under “I have something to prove” contracts. They’re going to have Nazem Kadri on a one year deal, they’re going to have Jonathan Bernier possibly on a one year deal if they don’t work out something longer. You look at all the guys who just signed for one year contracts – Shawn Matthias, Mark Arcobello, guys like that. Shawn Matthias was a guy who thought he was going to get a three year deal at a good salary and it didn’t work out. You don’t think he’s coming here with a chance to play in the top six and saying, “well it didn’t work out for me last summer, but there’s no reason it can’t work out for me next summer?” Nazem Kadri is two years away from unrestricted free agency after this year, and he is going to be saying, “okay these guys gave me a one year deal, now I’m gonna shove it up their nose.”

I’m sure guys are aware of what’s being said about them: “You can’t trade this guy because he’s got no value.” You don’t think some of them aren’t going to be like, “okay, I’ve got to change that?”

And then there’s the head coach, who is going to drive them to be better.

Now, I’m not sure they’re a playoff team. I think you look at the teams who made the playoffs last year and think, “who is worse, really?” I think there’s not really anybody who looks that much worse. I just look at them and I see they’ve got a roster with a lot of guys with the incentive to be good.

I also don’t think it can be that bad again. And the reason is, it wasn’t just bad because of the way it went on the ice, it was bad because of the way it went off the ice. Last year was an angry year. You know, the players hated the fans and the media. The media hated the players and the fans. The fans hated the players and the media. Like, everybody hated everyone else, and everyone felt they were justified in their hatred of everybody else. I don’t believe it can be that bad again.

And it didn’t go away. Sometimes it’s a short term thing, and it changes, but it wasn’t a short term thing. It hung over everybody – the organization, the players, the media, the fans. It was an angry season. In my time I’ve been working professionally, I’ve seen years that were tough, I’ve never seen a year like that, where it just hung for so long.

– Elliotte Friedman, Sportsnet 590

Having a roster that’s motivated to be good is one thing; a roster that’s talented enough to be good is quite another. There should be no shortage of intriguing storylines, though, including how some of these above-mentioned experiments work out, youth developments on the big club and down on the farm, Mike Babcock’s imprint on the team, and whether Nazem Kadri plays his way into being part of the team’s long-term core.

Sunday Links:

  • Elliotte Friedman: Leafs roster could be very intriguing (Sportsnet)
    NHL analyst Elliotte Friedman says next season’s version of the Maple Leafs will be very intriguing, because the roster will be full of players that have to prove themselves for their next contract.
  • Emily Sadler: Dubas: Kadri has chance to ‘take us to the bank’ (Sportsnet)
    “Naz has to pick up his end of the bargain — and I’ve got strong confidence that he will — and the other part of that falls on us in terms of management and coaching. I know with Mike [Babcock], he’s put it to Naz and he expects him to be an elite player, he expects him to reach his potential, and if he does that he’s going to play a ton and he’s going to score a lot … he’ll have the chance to take us to the bank.”
  • Lance Hornby: Maple Leafs’ Scott Pellerin wants to push players (Toronto Sun)
    “We want them to push their development, push their skill level to a certain point that they fail,” Pellerin said. “I want them to push themselves to get better, I don’t want them to feel they’re in a comfort zone. I want them out of the comfort zone, (to believe) they can be better.”
  • Sean Fitzgerald: Swedish authorities drop investigation into former Leafs player Andre Deveaux’s pre-game slash (National Post)
    “I’m not proud of what I did, and I understand that there are consequences,” Deveaux said at his news conference. “However, I’m not sorry for protecting myself when no one else would.”
  • Kevin McGran: Mitch Marner’s journey to be Maple Leafs’ top pick (Toronto Star)
    “I kind of knew right away when he was young that there was something different, something special about him,” says Paul Marner. “He literally could skate the first day we put him on skates. The next day, I took him to a pond and by the end of the day he was pushing the puck and taking some strides. It came to him that easy.”
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