Maple Leafs general manager Lou Lamoriello addressed the media on the team's locker clean out day. Here's what he had to say...
How soon do you think this team will be a playoff team?
You know, I really don't have an answer to that. The only thing I know is that what we're doing is the right thing and we're going to just keep doing it and how quickly things change will determine, but a lot of variables. What happens during free agency, what happens with the draft, what happens with the development of the Marlies. These playoffs are very important to see where the players are at and what transpires during the series and how important it is and how difficult it is. There are so many questions to be answered that will determine that once September and October comes.
What's the biggest positive you'll take out of this season?
I think the commitment that everyone has in this organization to doing things the right way and not getting ahead of ourselves, getting a foundation, getting a culture. Words that sometimes are overused but underdeveloped. That's what I feel the best about, that they're being developed and that nothing is being rushed. If it's right, we do it. If it's not right, we wait.
How important is Mike Babcock in your vision for the Maple Leafs?
It would be an understatement for me to express how important Mike is. I've said this continuously, for me he's the best coach in the game. He is the best coach for the Maple Leafs, not only the best coach in the game, because he's a teacher and what is needed to get a system in place and to stick with it consistently and to go over and over and over. What impresses me the most is Mike looks at the positives -- in other words, what the players do right -- and accentuates that and then whether they find a way for them to teach themselves in their own way. He is as important as you can make it in every way. He's just been a pleasure to work with, to do the things that are right and the fortunate thing for me is Brendan and Mike, we're all on the same page. Three different individuals but we have one common goal, do it right.
What is your plan for your restricted free agents?
I appreciate you asking. Time will tell.
Can you talk about the rest of the draft field and how prepared you are if you don't pick first?
They're prepared, that's the other thing. I could go on about what Brendan has set up here but Mark and his group, I've been in several of their scouting meetings up to this point from day one and there will be more. They're prepared, we know one thing now -- we're going to be one of four. We'll prepare accordingly and know where our other picks are. That will all take place.
Can you remember the last time you had a draft with 12 picks or close to that?
That was in the old days when we had 13 rounds.
How would winning the lottery change your offseason plans?
We'd have to wait and see. Everything affects your plans, everything goes in stages. We'll have to wait and see who's available, what our pick is, what our position is. It all has an effect.
Is the depth and variety of prospects one of the things that excites you most about the future?
Yes, I would say quality and quantity, quantity and quality. And as you said, different types of players. You need -- I've always looked at a team like an orchestra. You need violinists, you need drummers, you need trumpet players. I think we've got a pretty good set of young musicians.
Do you expect to be active in unrestricted free agency?
I think we've said this day-in and day-out. We'll be as active as we can make our team better within the form of what we're doing.
How much have you had a chance to watch Auston Matthews and the two Finnish prospects?
Do you have any health update on Joffrey Lupul? Is he expected to be back for the start of next year?
That's an unknown right now.
What about Robidas?
That's an unknown also.
Do you expect Robidas to show up for training camp?
We'll know on that. He'll be here but whether he can or not, I don't know. That's an unknown. His career could be over, we don't know.
Is the greatest need for your orchestra the goaltending situation?
We'll just have to wait and see.
What was the message for the players regarding what you expect them to accomplish over the summer?
My message was very simple. I came in with no preconceived notions. I don't know what transpired here. Like everybody else you hear this and you hear that, but I completely blanked it out and I just told the players that everything they did this year both on and off the ice, you have to feel good about yourselves. We don't feel good about the position we're in by any means, but the commitment they made to a new culture, the support they gave to what was asked of them, the way they handled themselves off the ice, the way they handled themselves with each and every one of you. No one hid to my knowledge. If they did I think that it was addressed immediately. They have to stand on who they are and what they represent. There's no entitlement in this organization. What you're going to earn is what you're going to get.
What was the worst thing that happened this year?
That's an interesting question. I can't think of anything that comes to mind. I think the support that the fans gave was just tremendous. There were a couple of things that transpired during the year. I think Dion's first night back here, the way fans sort of responded to him and gave him the credit he was due on the job he did this year and then right after that they turned to be Maple Leaf fans, when the fight [with Greening occurred] they were with their own team. Also I think at the end of the year, the fans, the way they handled the last game, the loss and the way the players handled themselves on the ice as far as they were one. This is your team, you're our fans and we want to all be going in the same direction. That, to me, was just very impressive.
How closely are you watching the end of the Russian playoffs?
We're watching every game.
How high or low is naming a captain on your to-do list?
That will take place when that's the right time. There's no rush. You don't do anything for the sake of doing it. Right now that's not something that Mike, Brendan and I have any discussion on whatsoever of any magnitude. That's not a priority now by any means.
What has impressed you the most about the Marlies this season?
What impresses me is the job that Sheldon has done there and Kyle with reference to the amount of call-ups we've had. People that they've had to bring up from Orlando or ATOs and they just found a way to win. There's a great culture that's being developed there within these young players. When you're winners you find a way to win. That's what we hope is going to transpire. They also have to understand what it's like. That first round is going to be very difficult. And then how they sustain that. They can't get too high, they can't get too low, they can't allow a loss to get in the way. How you dismiss something in the playoffs, how you recover from things that didn't go right that night, that's what it's all about. That's what separates winners and that's something you learn how to do. That doesn't happen overnight. You can't just be told that you do this, you have to experience it. There's an old expression in life, you don't know what experience is until you have it. They don't know what it's like until they experience it.