In a rare media interview with the Maple Leafs President, Brendan Shanahan discussed William Nylander’s next contract and the team’s performance through 22 games with TSN’s Gino Reda at the Board of Governors meeting in Seattle.
Reda: What are your thoughts on the up-and-down season by the team so far?
Shanahan: I don’t think there has ever been as much parity in the league as far as I can remember. Beyond one or two teams at the top or one or two teams at the bottom, it is something that all teams are talking about — trying to find that consistent approach to the game.
That being said, the results have been pretty good. We want it to be better. Our record is strong right now, but we are still looking to get that entire game back.
In talking to some of my colleagues, we are all going through it. We are all experiencing it. With the cap not growing over the last few years, what was already a league of parity has become even closer night in and night out. It should be a race to the very end.
Reda: How worried are you about what you are going to have to move out to get the kind of defensive help that the team needs right now?
Shanahan: First off, we are hopeful that our players are on the mend and are going to come back. The guys that we have called up from the Marlies, especially on the backend, have really done a good job for us.
You are always looking to make the team better. Brad (Treliving) is on the phone making those calls. In the meantime, we will deal with what we have, try to do our best, and play our game.
Over the last 10 games, our team has played much better and is starting to find that rhythm and that cohesive 20-man-unit game.
Reda: Do you get concerned by what William Nylander is…
Shanahan: I get concerned about everything [laughs]. I am like a typical Leafs fan. Everything concerns me.
By the way, I am a typical hockey fan and executive. Everything concerns us.
Reda: With the way Nylander is playing, the price seems to be going up and up and up. It is a tight-cap era.
Shanahan: If you are getting concerned because you have players on your team playing really good hockey, then you have to really check yourself.
I am not going to talk about the details of that, but the focus for all of us as a group and as individuals is to continue to improve. These close games and tight games can be a benefit to us as we come down [the stretch].
Reda: Are you worried that your regulation wins (five) put you among the league’s basement? In the playoffs, you don’t get to use your best six against the other team’s six in three-on-three OT.
Shanahan: That is what an 82-game season is for. You make those assessments after the whole period of time. The glass-half-full person in me would say that we have also been a very difficult team to beat. We are in the top five or six in the fewest losses in the NHL. The guys have proven that they are a tough team to beat.
Certainly, over 82 games, we will take a step back and really make that judgment on where we can make improvements. That is an area where, certainly, we would like to close games out when we have an opportunity to.
I have liked our ability to fight back when we have been behind by coming back in games and finding ways to scratch out points. As I said earlier, that is the season it has been for many of the teams in the league. It has been a very tight season for all of us.
All you can do all season long is continue to try to improve and get ready for the playoffs — and fight to get into the playoffs.