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“I’m like a typical Leaf fan, everything concerns me” Brendan Shanahan talks Leafs’ season so far

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Photo credit:(Photo from Steven Ellis/Daily Faceoff)
Alex Hobson
2 months ago
Ask any Toronto Maple Leafs fan their thoughts on the team’s season so far, and while you’ll probably get a couple of extremes on either side proclaiming that it’s either the best or the worst season of the team’s 106-year history, most people would probably agree that it’s been average. “Meh”, if you will. 
The Leafs have a record of 12-6-4, and while that’s not far off from the 14-6-6 record they had around this time last season, there are a number of concerns to keep fans buzzing. The state of the defensive corps, the blowup of the John Klingberg and Ryan Reaves signing, and the whole regulation wins thing. I’m sure you’ve heard about this at least once, whether that be through an article, on television, or on the radio, but if not, the Leafs currently have only five regulation wins on the season. You can look at that in the light of “the Leafs can’t close out games in regulation”, or you can look at it as “they’re finding a way to win these tight games”. Depends if you’re a glass-half-full or glass-half-empty kind of person. 
Nevertheless, the Leafs have still been playing well enough to keep their heads above the water. Their point percentage of .636 is good for third in the Eastern Conference, perhaps a nod to how strong they could be when they start playing their best hockey on a regular basis. 
It’s not all that often we hear from Team President Brendan Shanahan during the season, but TSN’s Gino Reda had a chance to catch up with him at the NHL’s Board of Governors meeting. I’m not going to transcribe the interview, as there was a ton to pack into the three-minute spot Reda had with him, but he started by addressing the aforementioned concerns about the team’s consistency and need for defensive help. You can listen to the full thing here.
“Well first off, we’re hopeful that our players are on the mend and are going to come back, and I think that the guys we’ve had to call up from the Marlies, especially on the back end, have really done a good job for us. You’re always looking to make the team better and Brad (Treliving) is always on the phone making those calls, but in the meantime we deal with what we have, we go out and try and do our best and play our game, and I think over the last ten games our team has played much better and is starting to find that rhythm, that cohesive 20-man unit game.”
Reda then began to ask him if he was concerned about the strong play of William Nylander and how that will affect his contract negotiations, but Shanahan cut him off.
“I get concerned about everything. I’m like a typical Leaf fan. Everything concerns me.” he said with a laugh. “Like I said, I think if you get concerned because you have players on your team playing really good hockey, you’ve gotta really check yourself. Look, I’m not going to talk about the details about that, but more focus right now is just to continue to improve. I think these tight games can be a benefit to us as we come down the stretch.”
If it wasn’t obvious enough, Shanahan is not worried about the state of the Leafs. While they’ve had some legitimate concerns pop up that will need to be addressed, there’s clearly a belief among the management team and the players that the ship will right itself, both on the ice and in terms of franchise decisions like the Nylander negotiations. And honestly, I can’t blame him for thinking that way. Every year, the theme seems to be “get it done in the playoffs and the regular season doesn’t matter”. Well, the playoffs are still four months and change away, but the Leafs’ top-end talent is clearly good enough to drag them to the playoffs. This isn’t a mindset the team should be adopting and clinging to, because you want to bring your best every night, but it does contextualize the level of concern fans should have about the team in comparison to where they’ve been around this time of year in the past. And clearly, Shanahan feels the same way. He even used the “glass-half-full” quip I dropped earlier. 
“The glass-half-full person in me would say we’ve also been a difficult team to beat. We have some of the top-5 or 6 fewest losses in the NHL. The guys have proven that they’re a tough team to beat, and that’s something we’ll assess over a full 82 games, it’s certainly an area we’d like to close games out when we have an opportunity to, but I also like our ability to fight back when we’ve been behind, and find ways to scratch out points.”

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