On whether the Leafs are ahead of where he expected:
First of all, as I said to the players today, me coming in here – I had no preconceived notions. I was not here last year. I came in the latter part of July. I had heard different things, but I had a blank slate in my mind. What I was impressed about is the way they’ve responded to Mike and his coaching and his philosophy and the way they committed themselves each and every night, and the way they’ve accepted everything that’s been asked of them off the ice. I think they’ve handled themselves exemplary. We just said thank you for that. Now, there’s a lot to be done and we know that.
As far as the answer to your question, I couldn’t even say where we would be and where we would not be. All I can tell you is that there’s a foundation that’s being built and we haven’t gotten off the course on it. We just have to continue that.
On whether guarded optimism is a proper description moving forward with the young kids:
There’s no question of the quantity and quality of the young players that we have and the way they played when they were here, and the way we tried to use them to give them a taste of it. Maybe if it didn’t go well, we kept them a little longer than they’d like to try to get them into it so they felt good about themselves going back to the Marlies. It’s very important for them going down there and knowing what it takes to win, and what the experience is as a group. Some have won; whether it be a Memorial Cup or college, but this level is a different level. The Marlies is a stepping stone towards here.
On potentially having the first overall pick:
First of all, we don’t have it. All we know right now is that we’re one of four, and that’s important for us to know because that’s the way we’ll plan. Once we know exactly what our pick is, we’ll go from there. We’re not going to get excited over it. We’ll just be prepared to draft and work with our scouting staff, certainly, in preparation for that first pick one to four. And then we have another pick in the latter part of it. It won’t be something that we’re waiting and hoping for. We’re just getting ready.
On the importance of Mark Hunter at this time of year:
He’s a key cog in the organization throughout the year because of the time and effort you have to put into planning, but I’ve been impressed. I’ve said that often so I don’t mind being redone. We feel extremely comfortable with our scouting staff and certainly with the direction under Mark Hunter.
On what Nazem Kadri proved or showed to him this season:
I’ve been one of his biggest fans, as everybody knows. I just like the way he competes. I like the way he stands up for not only himself but his teammates. He plays a certain style where he’s going to get himself into different jams at different times, and he doesn’t allow his size to get in the way.
On the steps Morgan Rielly took this season:
I’ve seen the whole defence take major steps. I’ve been extremely impressed with Morgan and what Gardiner has done. The improvement of [Martin Marincin]. There’s been a lot of positive things with the defence.
On the team’s biggest need moving forward into the offseason:
We’ll find out as the year goes.
On the goaltending situation:
I think that’s just like all of the other areas that we have to look at. We’ll just wait and see.
On how eager he is to get a captain in place:
There’s no rush, by any means. I think the most important thing is the right one, as far as the captaincy. That’s not a priority right now. The priority right now is to do all the things that we’re doing – get ourselves ready for the draft, get ourselves ready for free agency, see what’s transpiring and what happens during the Stanley Cup playoffs as far as availability. The captaincy is not something that’s a priority.
On Joffrey Lupul and Stephane Robidas’ injury situations:
We still don’t have any definite on what their situation is. Right now, it’s an unknown.
On his first year in Toronto:
As I said, I came in with no preconceived notions, but certainly what surprised me if there was [a surprise] is how quickly the players adapted and responded to myself and Brendan and what was asked of them without questions. They were looking to go in a certain direction. Also, the fans – the fans have just been tremendous… when Dion came in for the first time and how they were receptive to Dion, and what they did for him, and then how quickly it turned once there was a fight and they became Leafs fans. And then, on the last day of the year, despite losing, with the players at center ice and the way the fans treated them. The players should feel extremely pleased with the type of support that they have. I think the fans hopefully feel good about the direction of their players.
On the optimism and hope despite finishing last:
I think what [the players] feel is that they’re “one.” First of all, there’s no entitlement. They know that no one individual can have success if the team doesn’t have success. That’s what I think they feel. I think they feel that everybody is going in the same direction, no matter who it is. They’re going to be told exactly the way it is. They’re going to hear the good, the bad, but never the indifferent. It’s either good or bad. There’s no such thing as no news. It has to be good news or bad news.