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What lies ahead

by David Alter / Toronto Maple Leafs

It’s been a few days and now the dust has settled on a massive change of personnel. It’s a leaner staff with many hirings left to make. But it’s some new staff that will get a chance to really make their mark.

Leafs assistant GM Kyle Dubas and Director of Player Personnel Mark Hunter have not been around for very long and will get their first full off-season to put many of their ideas forward.

It started back in November when Dubas made player development changes. Steve Staios is in charge of working with prospects, back from his temporary stint as Assistant Coach in the wake of Randy Carlyle’s dismissal in early January. Scott Pellerin and Darryl Belfry were added as well and will get to work with many prospects now that the off-season is in full swing.

There’s a clearer sense of what needs to be done and many players will be busier than others. Defenceman Jake Gardiner is confirmed to take part at the World Hockey Championship in Prague, Czech Republic. Others may join to represent other countries.

Many players are left to contemplate if their future will be in Toronto or elsewhere. Changes happen and that’s part of any season, no matter how successful or disappointing any season is.

Some players will need rest as many were playing with injuries toward the end of the year. It’s why players like Jonathan Bernier opted to rest instead of going to Worlds.

Players who were shut down like defencemen Stephane Robidas and Roman Polak look to come back and make more of an impact next season.

The Marlies appear to be busy for a little bit, continuing to win as their regular season closes with playoffs in sight.

Nothing will happen quickly. While the spring time will be a good time evaluate, a new GM and Head Coach may not emerge until the summer when all 30 teams have closed out their 2014-15 campaign.

Some bright spots

Morgan Rielly

He saw his role increase to an average of over 20 minutes a game, up from over 17 minutes in his rookie year. His point total increased to a career high 29 including eight goals, up from the two he had the year before. With changes coming, Rielly will be counted on to produce at an even higher level in his third year.

High Draft Pick

The Leafs will pick either first, fourth or fifth at the upcoming NHL draft. Depending on how the lottery goes, Toronto could be on the fast track to improvement. This draft is loaded with top-flight talent in the early rounds.

A New Approach

The challenge for Toronto was playing a new brand of hockey midway through the season. Shortly after Carlyle’s dismissal, the team began to play the brand of hockey that management was looking for. It came with a steep learning curve and with it, a lack of offence. With a full training camp to develop the system, that brand of hockey will come at the right time, with a new group.

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