After Monday’s practice, GM Brad Treliving discussed the performance of his team through 19 games, John Klingberg’s injury situation, Ryan Reaves’ play to start his Leaf tenure, contract negotiations with William Nylander amid his hot start, and whether he is looking for outside help on the blue line.
How are you feeling about the team through 19 games?
Treliving: There are two things. There are the standings, and then there is how you are playing.
From a manager’s perspective, you are always looking at how you are playing. To me, we have been hit and miss. There has been some inconsistency in our game which is a little concerning. The areas we want to clean up and improve upon: We want to try to put that same game on the ice period after period and game after game.
The one encouraging sign is that when we look at a lot of the data, our defensive play and what we have given up has gotten better. It needs to continue to get better. Overall, there are still gaps in the consistency of how we have played.
Through the first quarter of the season, that would be my overwhelming theme. We have to become more consistent as a group.
What is the prognosis for John Klingberg? How much were you worried about his lingering issues when you signed him?
Treliving: First of all, we didn’t anticipate… This wasn’t something where we knew the player was injured and we went and signed him anyhow. We knew the history of the player, but we didn’t anticipate there was going to be an issue.
He got injured, and the event was in the Florida game or on the first road trip where we went to Florida and Tampa. It hasn’t improved.
I hate to say it in case we don’t have it, but I anticipate we will have clarity this week. He is meeting with some doctors. We went through some meetings last week to see if this is a situation where there is a surgical intervention or not.
I would anticipate that by the end of the week at the latest — and I say that cautiously — we are going to have a better idea of where John is at or what the prognosis would be.
When we looked at bringing in John, obviously, I said at the time that he was coming off of a tough year in Anaheim. When I looked at our defense here and looked at some of the decisions we had to make… We had Auston and Willy’s situations that were priorities, and we wanted to make sure we gave ourselves the flexibility to handle those contracts.
We were looking to go short-term. We wanted John to come in, help us move pucks, generate some offense, and help us get out of our own end. Injuries happen. That is an unfortunate part of the game.
We will see where he is at by the end of the week and hopefully go from there.
Is he having a specialist evaluate his hip in Denver?
Treliving: I think the doc he is dealing with is in New York. He had some consultations with them over the course of last week. I believe he is going to see the doctor in New York.
How much has William Nylander’s start to the season impacted your contract talks with his agent Lewis Gross, if at all?
Treliving: I try to give you as much as I possibly can, but I am not going to get into those discussions other than to say nothing has changed on our end. Our desire and hope at the end of the day is to get Willy signed. There is a process that you go through.
Willy has had a tremendous start to the year. I don’t think this is just a hot start. I think he is a really good player.
I stated from day one that our objective was to get Auston signed. We got him signed. Our objective is to get Willy signed. We are working on it.
He has had his great start — great for him and great for us — but it doesn’t change in any way. We just continue to work away at it.
How do you feel about Ryan Reaves’ game so far?
Treliving: I think Reavo would probably be the first to tell you he had a tough start. For the group and Reavo itself, it was good to see him not just score but I thought he also played well in Chicago.
The thought process behind it had to do with what he could bring to our room. He can play better. He has had some bad luck. I know a lot gets reported about plus-minus and the rest of it. He knows he can be better, but he has chewed on some minuses that, in my opinion, are not related to him. Sometimes you go through stretches like that.
Hopefully, the Chicago game is a good sign of things to come. We need more from a lot of guys here now.
How do you assess the defense so far?
Treliving: It is hard, right? We have had a lot of injuries. It tests your depth. We have players playing, and I think they have given us good minutes as depth players. You can see them playing into the teens in a number of games already.
It pushes people into different chairs. The whole idea is to slot people in the right circumstances so they are handling the right minutes. When you have injuries, it pushes people. It is an area we wanted to see if we could strengthen regardless. Now that we have injuries, it tests your depth. As I said, you probably have people playing high and more minutes than you want, and they are hanging in there.
In fact, we would like to help ourselves. When you are sitting here in November, it is easier said than done. It is certainly an area we look at to see if we can help ourselves.
The Leafs are involved in so many trade rumours. Is part of the job of the manager canvassing the league to see what players might be available to help the team?
Treliving: That is your job all the time. You are trying to help the team. Now, the idea that you are going to trade yourself out of issues is not realistic.
Coming in here, we did some things over the course of the summer. Some have gone well. Some are works in progress. Some haven’t gone as well. You take a look at where you are at, and you are always trying to find ways to help the team.
Part of this is learning the group we have. Certainly, you are always looking at ways to make yourself better. At what cost, and those types of questions… It is an everyday part of the job for sure.
What are your thoughts on your goaltending?
Treliving: Probably the same as the team. I think they can be more consistent. We have seen some really good games. We have seen some games where they can be better. There have been some goals that have gone in that you would like to have back.
I do think goaltending can clean up a lot of messes for you. You can also clean up a lot of messes and make your goaltending look a lot better. There is a yin and a yang there.
This weekend, it didn’t show up, but over the course of the last eight games, our defensive play has been better and what we have given up has gone done. It has been better. We have been a little tighter. That makes the goalie’s job easier.
I would put them in the same category as the rest of the group. There can be some more consistent play.