Prior to the beginning of the Maple Leafs' 2016-17 regular season, head coach Mike Babcock noted that, in the previous year, the team didn't have enough players for the jobs that were available. But as he met with the media Tuesday at Air Canada Centre to reflect on the 2016-17 campaign - one in which his team impressed many people by making the playoffs and pushing the powerful Washington Capitals to six games in their first-round series - Babcock acknowledged there's been a drastic change in internal competition for jobs among players, and that change is a great indicator of how far the Leafs have come in his second year with the franchise.
"In exit meetings today, you're telling (players) they've got to come back and win a job - that's just reality," Babcock told a packed room of reporters. "We'll have more people coming, and I think that's what it's all about: the more competition you have internally for those jobs, the better opportunity you're going to have for success long-term. And we're not good enough. If you look at Tampa and the quality organization they are, they still almost got in the playoffs with the injuries they had. That wouldn't have been possible for us. We're not at that level yet that's possible.