Brad Treliving, Maple Leafs
Photo: Dan Hamilton/USA Today Sports

GM Brad Treliving joined TSN Overdrive to discuss the team’s 12-6-4 start to the season, Joseph Woll’s performance in net, and his pursuit of outside help for the blue line.

You have been very public about how you feel about William Nylander and wanting to get him signed. Nylander has been public about reciprocating that and wanting to stick around. This is your first experience negotiating a big deal in-season. How is Nylander handling the noise?

Treliving: I think Willy has handled it tremendously. It goes to show you he has the ability just to block things out and focus on the task at hand. He has had a heck of a start to the season. I don’t think it has affected him.

From our perspective, it is managing all of the other things around. There is a difference between an off-season negotiation or a UFA signing who is not necessarily your player — the player is hitting the marketplace — and your player who you are dealing with in-season.

The immediate attention has to be directed towards the ice, the games, the performance, and the team performance. You try to separate that from business. The coach and the players have their jobs to do on a daily basis. We in management try to work as quietly as we can off the ice to try to get business done. I think Willy has handled it tremendously.

That is probably a quick update there. I am not going to get into a whole lot on it other than to say we continue to work on it. I remain consistent with what I have said during this process. We would like to get him signed.

It has to work for everybody involved. We continue to hammer away at it. Our hope is that we will get to a good conclusion.

You’ve worked in Canada before, but what is it like waking up every day when there is a bigger number attached to Nylander with each point he accumulated? In terms of the attention in general, it is another Canadian market, but is it different than Calgary?

Treliving: It is. I would be lying to you if I said it wasn’t. You try to insulate yourself.

The great thing is that there is the passion here. Calgary is similar — Canadian market where the game means so much. It is similar to all the Canadian markets and some of the U.S. markets or some of the Original Six markets where the game is big. But there is just so much volume here with the number of people that follow the team.

To me, it is a great thing. It goes to show the passion of the fan base. Now, you have to manage it. You try to insulate yourself. You try to block everything out. It is sometimes easier said than done, but you just focus on the task at hand. You can’t get too high or too low. You have to be steady at the wheel each day.

As I have said in the case of Willy, you just stay focused on the goal at hand. From a business perspective, the goal is to get him signed. You try to eliminate as many obstacles for Willy as you can and just have him singularly focused on what he is doing on the ice, playing well, and helping our team have success.

There are certainly some challenges, but when there is that much attention, it means people care. That is the cool part about being in this market.

22 games into your working relationship with Sheldon Keefe, what have you learned about your head coach?

Treliving: It probably emphasizes what I learned over the summer getting to know him. There is the getting-to-know-you phase in the summer, and then the live bullets start in season.

He is a really smart and detailed guy. I think he has the exact right message for this group. I have said before that he has come into a market where his first NHL job is in Toronto. If I looked at it and just used my personal experiences, my first time in the NHL being in Toronto could be overwhelming. I think he handles it very well.

He has the ability to sort of step back, analyze, and not be reactionary or emotional on certain issues. I like the message he has for our players. He is steady on the rudder. I have really enjoyed getting to know him over time since I first got here. Now that the live bullets are going, I have been impressed with him.

I did an availability a week or 10 days ago and talked about the inconsistency — a lot of inconsistency — in our game. We have dealt with some injuries. We have dealt with some things, but outside of that, our game can be a lot more consistent. We have seen stretches and pieces of it. The good news is that we have been able to bank some points, but we are not fooling ourselves, either. There is work to be done here.

The first person who is aware of that is Sheldon. I have been impressed with him and have enjoyed the start with him, too.

Does the fact that you’ve banked points give you some breathing room on defense? With some of the players who have come up, it is maybe not as urgent to grab a player right now. Does the place in the standings prevent you from dealing from a position of weakness?

Treliving: It is a balance for sure. Touch wood, we are hoping that we have some help on the way as Lily continues to recover. Hopefully, we are seeing some light at the end of the tunnel there. Hopefully, Gio is not too, too long. Hopefully, we get some reinforcements from within, but we certainly would like to add.

Now, what is that? At the best of times, there is not a lot of availability with defensemen. This is not a guy sitting here making a bunch of excuses. It is my job to help our team. It is just the reality of what is available out there — supply and demand. The smaller the supply, the heavier the demand.

We will just have to balance that. You have to be careful about how far you chase it in those cases. If you are going to spend assets, what kind of material difference does it make?

Everybody tends to react — you need this or you need that — but through this process, there are players you weren’t necessarily expecting to play bigger roles on your team. I give Benoit and Lagesson a lot of credit. They’re big bodies and they’ve competed hard. They’ve played their asses off for us. Good for them. We have found some guys who have been able to come in and give us some minutes.

Now, can we find a way to upgrade? That is the trick. The manager group is a really good group and a close group, but nobody is out there feeling sorry for us or looking to do us any favours. We will continue to look and see if there is something that makes sense.

At this early point in the year, we have all seen it, and it is really a function of the salary cap. You see a lot of these deals, for the most part, happen more frequently the longer the season goes on and the closer you get to the deadline. Money has been paid to those players. There are fewer cap implications.

Those are not excuses. We have to find a way to see if we can help ourselves. That is what our staff continues to do on a daily basis.

You have a young goalie in Joseph Woll who is helping the defense out. What do you make of his play?

Treliving: He has been real good, hasn’t he? You try to be cautious with young goalies in such a difficult position, but I mean, he has played some really good games.

Obviously, he has the physical tools. He is a big guy. You can get into the technical aspects, but I like it when it hits the goalie. It seems to hit him, which is good.

You even see in younger goalies today that there are a lot of technically sound goalies, but I think we’ve lost that battle level — that compete level — in a goalie. Sometimes, we have a lot of A to B but there is not a lot to C here.

This guy battles. He battles to keep it out. When structure sometimes has to go out the window and you have to be athletic and competitive, he is that.

Most importantly, he really has the mental makeup. Not a lot of things fluster this guy. At that position, being strong between the ears is so important. He is calm. He is a laid-back guy. He doesn’t have too many bad days. He has been really impressive.

We saw what Sammy did last year. We know he can get back to that form. We are going to need both goalies.

We have given [Woll] probably more work on some nights than we want to, so we have to clean up some things defensively, but certainly, Joe has had a real strong start to the year.

The statistic of five wins in regulation — what does it tell you about your team?

Treliving: You would like to win them all 5-1 in regulation and put your feet up in the third, but sometimes, it doesn’t happen that way.

I look at it two ways. Number one, we have been able to bank points. We are not giving any of them back. But you also can’t look at it as though things are perfect.

We have things to clean up. You take the positives out of it. We have been able to find some points. In some ways, we have been resilient. If you look at last Saturday, we came from behind. In some games, we have pissed away some points in terms of letting teams back into it — or maybe even we got it [done] in OT or shootout, but we made it more difficult than it should’ve been.

I’d like us just to be a lot tighter defensively. Our team has enough people who can score. Sheldon and his staff are working on it and are aware of it. We just have to be a little cleaner defensively. We shouldn’t need four every night to win a game.

You see it with teams who are competing late in the spring. You need to score, and that is always an emphasis. We want to make sure we have enough offense here, but to me, a lot of our issues have been being a little too loose defensively or giving up a few too many chances. Taking away a little more space and being hard to play against in terms of suffocating teams a little bit more — those are the areas we need to focus on.

We will take the points that we have gotten, but certainly, there are areas we know we have to and can be better in.