The past two seasons have ended in disappointing fashion for the Toronto Maple Leafs. With training camp on the horizon, the hope is an infusion of veteran players can help them take the next step.
After finishing the 2013-14 season 2-12-0 to fall outside of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Toronto shook up its front office with the additions of president Brendan Shanahan and assistant general manager Kyle Dubas. Coach Randy Carlyle's staff was also replaced, but the changes to the Maple Leafs roster were far more subtle.
Toronto added eight veterans, trading for defenseman Roman Polak and signing defenseman Stephane Robidas. Forward depth was provided with the signings of David Booth, Daniel Winnik, Mike Santorelli, Leo Komarov and Petri Kontiola, and the acquisition of former Maple Leafs player Matt Frattin in a trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Toronto's holdovers from last year like the reshaped roster but admit they won't have much time to develop chemistry with their new teammates.
"The biggest thing for us right now is we've got a lot of new guys coming in. We're going to have to come together really quickly in training camp because the start of the season is an important part for every team in the League," captain Dion Phaneuf said. "For our team to have a real solid year is to concentrate on our start and with the new guys coming in really come together and get off on the right foot."
Speaking with teammates Jonathan Bernier and Joffrey Lupul on Friday at Leafs Nation Fan Fest, Phaneuf acknowledged that the Maple Leafs had to improve following last season's collapse and the disappointing Game 7 overtime loss to the Boston Bruins in the first round of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"We've had some real ups and downs through the last couple of years. That's part of the process," Lupul said. "You look at the teams like [the Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings], teams that are there every year. They had those ups and downs too."
Bernier was particularly excited about the additions of Polak and Robidas on defense. Playing behind an inexperienced defense last season, Bernier faced 1,787 shots in 55 games on a team that allowed a League-high 35.9 shots per game. Despite missing time with injuries, Bernier's 1,649 saves ranked seventh in the NHL.
"We have a lot of new guys. We've got to fit together and hopefully as soon as possible. It's never easy," Bernier said. "We got some new players that are going to help us, especially the D-men. We got some older guys with leadership. That's going to be good for us."