Another season is over, which means another set of disappointing exit interviews. Here is what the Leafs players and management had to say.
Player Exit Interviews
Tavares on early playoff exit: “It’s been a pretty miserable couple of days.”
On his season overall: “I don’t think I have regrets. I think I put everything I can into it, and make every decision and approach everything with the best of intentions. You just want to play better and find another level to your game to help the team win.”
Thoughts on the Leafs moving forward: “We’re disappointed, and it sucks to be in the spot we’re in. That just has to continue to fuel the fire. The consistency has to be a lot better…but when you go through a lot of tough moments, you have to embrace [those] obstacles.”
On whether the Leafs need to undergo big changes to succeed: “We have tremendous youth. The harder thing to do is staying the course of the group and for us…asking a lot of tough questions and challenging one another to be better.”
Rielly on this Leafs team: “As a core, we believe in what we have and how we play. It’s just a matter of doing it more consistently and [playing] harder.”
On the Leafs mental toughness: “Doubt creeps in when you’re down in a series, and it’s about being mentally strong, keeping that edge and really being able to push through. So I think that’s an area that we have to work on.”
Matthews on the Leafs confidence: “This core believes we’re right there. We don’t really care what other people think, or how far away other people think we are…we’re going to power through this adversity and we’ll break through eventually.”
On how the Leafs must improve to take the next step: “A lot of it is a mindset. We have to figure out playoffs, and how to get out of the first round. I think four years [of losing], obviously it’s pretty frustrating and a little bit embarrassing as well.”
Matthews on improving as a defensive player: “I think each year I’ve taken a step forward. A lot of it is experience, and competing out there, wanting the puck, throwing around my body a little bit more. And I think takeaways are a big part of my game.”
On Sheldon Keefe: “For me personally, I thought he did a great job.”
Marner on the Leafs early exits: “It’s been one game that’s the reason we’re going home early. I don’t know how to explain it. I don’t know why we can’t get the job done. It’s frustrating. [But] it’s going to be really fun to have Sheldon as a full coach this year”
On his series vs Columbus: “The first game, I wasn’t engaged at all, in the physicalness of play at all. And then from that point on, I felt like I got a lot more engaged and playing like my old self, but zero goals are not going to get the job done.”
Muzzin on the Leafs series loss: “The frustration I’ve seen from guys after the loss will just fuel us to the next level. No one’s happy right now. And we shouldn’t be. You didn’t reach your goal so why would you be happy? Guys are frustrated and I hope that burns and stays with us. If we’re not learning from this, we’re really losing. I hope guys understand that we’ve got to dig into the next level and that’ll bring this team further along.”
On the Leafs eventually finding playoff success: “The will to win has to burn a little hotter. Once we find that, we’ll be dangerous.”
His health post-injury vs Columbus: “I’m feeling good. Kind of a freak play, an accident. All things are looking towards a full, healthy recovery.”
On quarantining post-hospital visit: “It wasn’t fun. You’re watching hockey games in [the] hotel room by yourself for four days, while the guys that you’ve worked with and battled with all season are going to war, and you’re just sitting there watching.”
Muzzin on confidence in the Leafs core: “I think we have a lot of guys who want to win. And that’s the belief I have. The wanting to win is crucial to driving players, and I believe it’s in there. I believe this group is capable of winning it all.”
Barrie on his season with the Leafs: “A bit of a disappointing year all around. I would have loved to have helped this team more. We’ve got a great group of guys here and I’m really pulling for them going forward.” He also says he has “no idea what the future holds.”
On being unsatisfied with parts of his season: “I know a lot of the fans would have liked to see me do a little more, so I’ll put that on myself.”
Barrie on why he left Game 5: “I banged my head on the ice pretty hard. Had some headaches and they’re pretty careful with the concussion stuff. I’m feeling pretty good right now.”
Nylander on switching to a center for Game 5: “It was a little different. But I talked to Sheldon about it and I said that I could do it. If I didn’t think that I was confident in doing it I would have told him that.”
On why the Leafs core should stay together: “We’re young and there’s still a long way for us to go to get where we want. We’ve played together and we’re going through everything together and I think it’s a valuable learning experience.”
Andersen on his series vs Columbus: “I felt the most comfortable I’ve felt in a playoff series. We didn’t get the job done, which is frustrating. If we keep learning and keep building, eventually it’s going to click and we’re going to be really dangerous.”
On what the Leafs need: “Some belief in how good we can be when we do play our hardest, and playing hard in those tight games that are low scoring. Being able to push through & believe you can work hard…once we realize that, we’ll be really tough to play against”
Andersen on his season: “A lot of ups and downs, but as a team, we weren’t good enough to get it done. I think that’s what frustrates everyone the most. We have a good team, and we didn’t accomplish the goal we set out to.”
Hyman on the series loss to Columbus: “I’m frustrated and everybody’s frustrated, our team’s frustrated, we’re not happy with results. We’re building towards being in a position where it’s going to stop sucking.”
On the anger from fans: “Anger is justified. This one hits harder. You grow up with the team, there’s so much hope and that’s frustrating. I can see the frustrations from fans. I grew up with them and I know what it’s like to care about the Maple Leafs. It’s going to suck for a long time.”
Hyman on the Leafs chances: “We all enjoy playing together. We’re right there (except for bounces). But we have to put ourselves in a position where we don’t have to rely on a bounce going our way.”
Spezza on playing for the Leafs: “It’s special to play for the Toronto Maple Leafs. As a Toronto boy, it’s something I dreamed of. You wanted to be a part of something special. I didn’t take for granted any day with a jersey on and it’s really disappointing to be done this early.”
On the Leafs next step: “I’ve played on high-end offensive teams and the ones that had long playoff runs could lock it down when you had a lead. So that’s something that this group will have to get comfortable with moving forward.”
On the Leafs core maturing: “Seeing a guy like Auston really mature through the year, taking ownership of the locker room with his own play, I think he really went to another level.”
Thoughts on his future with the Leafs: “I know that I’m not the player I once was, but I do feel like I can help quite a bit, and the fire still burns and I really hope to be back here next year.”
Management Exit Interviews
Kyle Dubas – General Manager
Dubas on the Leafs season: “It’s not a dream, in terms of how we can play because we showed it multiple times throughout this year. Just the fact that we could not do it as often as required to reach our potential would be the most disappointing factor from my end.”
On the Tyson Barrie trade: “The lesson I take from that is better aiding players with their adjustment into the organization.”
Dubas on Mitch Marner: “I don’t get the criticism of Mitch Marner one bit. I really struggle with it. Everything that he does wrong, people jump all over him about it. I don’t know how or why it’s that way. It’s among the most idiotic things I see done here.”
On his salary cap management: “We’re not up against the cap, contrary to everyone’s belief.”
Brendan Shanahan – Team President
Shanahan on the Leafs style of playing: “We’re not being outclassed in these playoffs. We’re not going to the playoffs and running into teams and saying like, ‘wow, we’re miles away.’ But we’re not getting over that final hurdle.”
On the Leafs players after series loss: “I sense that the players are extremely angry – angry with themselves, and we’re angry with ourselves. These guys want to win, they want to become the team that they are capable of becoming. And they’re not making excuses.”
Shanahan on anger from the fans: “We understand why Toronto fans are frustrated. They’re entitled to be, they should be. Our players do want to perform for them, and themselves.”
On Kyle Dubas as GM: “I have complete faith in Kyle as a general manager, in Sheldon as a coach and complete confidence in what we’re going to do here in Toronto.”
Shanahan on grit: “I do believe you can develop grit. You have to change the narrative; players can change how they’re perceived.”
Final Thoughts on Exit Interviews
For any team, in any sport, having to do exit interviews without a championship means that you were not good enough. Once again the Maple Leafs were not good enough. Normally in these exit interviews, players give us the same old cliche answers, but yesterday the Maple Leafs were a little more open.
No matter how good their stats are during the regular season, the Maple Leafs need to find a way to win a playoff round. Although these exit interviews are filled with embarrassment and frustration, they are also filled with hope. Hope is nice, but useless without results. Fans are tired of hope, we want results.
Follow me on Twitter for more great content @Jermz13!
Follow us at @OT_Heroics for more great content!
Also, be sure to check out the Overtime Heroics Forums page to join in on the discussion!
This article is sponsored by Bottom Line – Toronto’s Classiest Sports Bar
If you would like the chance to win a $25 gift certificate to Bottom Line Sports Bar and 2 FREE passes to the Hockey Hall of Fame, here’s how to qualify.
- Must be following both @BottomLine and @Jermz13 on Twitter
- Must be able to go to Bottom Line for a meal or drink. After your meal or drink, you will be given the passes.
- Must send a Direct Message (DM) to @Jermz13 with the name of your favorite Toronto Maple Leafs player.
Contest ends on August 17th at 6pm EST