At the Maple Leafs’ end-of-season media availability, Morgan Rielly discussed the team’s disappointing end to the playoffs, Kyle Dubas’ expiring contract, and his abiding belief in the core player group.
What were the last few days like as you were processing the end result?
Rielly: Not where you want to be, so you spend time thinking and process things. It is a feeling that is all too familiar, but every year feels a little bit different.
Did this year feel like progress at all?
Rielly: Every year, you want to progress and grow as a team as well as individually. Again, you do feel that, but ultimately, you are in the same spot. It is hard to dissect that, but yeah, I do think there was progress.
In what ways do you think there was progress this year?
Rielly: As an individual, you look to grow as a person and a hockey player. Progress was made on the ice and hopefully off the ice. To pinpoint it is tough today. You hope and you strive to make progress every single season, every day, every practice, and every game.
I don’t exactly have a pinpoint answer for you, but I think there was a lot of growth here.
With so many of the top teams knocked out, does it feel like an even bigger missed opportunity than years past?
Rielly: Yeah, certainly. I think that is the hardest thing. It is hard when you turn the TV on and see other teams playing and competing for a Stanley Cup, and you aren’t doing that. That is ultimately where the emotions come in. That makes the loss tough.
What did the team lack in the second-round series?
Rielly: I don’t think there is a right answer to that question. We are disappointed in the outcome of the series. I thought Florida played well. They were opportunistic. We weren’t.
We lacked a lot of stuff, which is fortunate to be standing here [and saying], but it is the truth.
Especially after all of the moves that were made at the trade deadline, what stood out to you about the things that didn’t work?
Rielly: It is hard to identify what exactly that one thing is. I don’t think there is any one thing. In terms of the moves that got made and the people that got brought in, they were brought in for a reason and did a great job. The moves were great.
Everybody has the same goal. We are driving toward one thing. When you come up short, it is hard to identify if there was one thing that we lacked or one thing that we were missing.
Ultimately, Florida played a great series. They won. We lost. I can’t pinpoint the one thing we were missing.
Do you maintain a belief in the core group?
Rielly: I do, no question, as I think everybody should. We are standing here today after losing, so we don’t want to have blind faith or trust, but I think there is reason to believe in the people here.
What gives you reason to believe?
Rielly: The regular season, and at times, the playoffs. I have had conversations with my teammates. I believe the right things are going on.
It is hard when the results aren’t here. That’s all that matters. That is my personal belief, my feeling, and how I think.
The GM is on an expiring contract. It is above your pay grade, but as players, that truth has been sitting there all year. What are your thoughts on that?
Rielly: I think the world of Kyle. What he did for our team this year — whether it be his first meeting in training camp right through to the trade deadline, and I just spoke to him three minutes ago — he is a world-class GM.
I am not in charge of what happens with his contract, but everything he did was in the team’s best interest. He put us in a position where we had a chance to win and succeed. Ultimately, the players were the ones that were on the ice at the end of the season.
What do you take away from the season individually?
Rielly: It takes time to reflect, and there are always things to take away. Right now, it is more of a time to be thinking about the team, reflect on what we went through, what we could’ve done differently, and what we want to do differently in the future.
The time to reflect on the season with my personal stuff happens over the course of the summer.