After one of the worst statistical seasons in franchise history, which saw the Leafs finish 30-44-8 including a 9-28-5 record following a January coaching change, club President Brendan Shanahan vowed changes are coming to the team’s leadership group.
It likely means the end in Toronto for some combination of captain Dion Phaneuf, Phil Kessel, Tyler Bozak and Joffrey Lupul.
All of the aforementioned players know they may have played their final game in a Leafs’ sweater.
“I signed here to be a Toronto Maple Leaf, that can change. I understand the business side, I’ve been around the business for long enough that I understand this business,” said Phaneuf. “If that (trade) does happen or if it comes up this summer, I’ll deal with that then.”
The 30-year-old had 29 points in 70 games while matching a career-worse minus-11 rating. Phaneuf was also sidelined for 12 games with a hand injury, which has not fully healed.
“This was, for me, the toughest year that I’ve had in my career. The main thing is that we did not play well enough and I take responsibility for me not playing well enough for our team,” said Phaneuf. “My numbers, I think, reflect that in the offensive side of the game. I didn’t produce where I expect to produce and that affected our team success.”
Kessel along with James van Riemsdyk and Bozak – the Leafs’ top line – combined for a minus-101 rating.
“I have no idea what’s going to happen the way the season went and things like that. I haven’t really thought about it too much,” said Bozak, who matched his point total (49) from last season while playing 24 more games. “Obviously I’d like to be here, it’s where I’ve been my whole career, but who knows what’s going to happen.
“I obviously think there’s probably going to be some changes. You never know what’s going to happen so I guess we’ll just wait and see.”
Kessel, who had multiple run-ins this season with the media, had his lowest goal total in an 82-game season (25) since his second year in the league (2007-08).
“I signed (for) eight years last year. I love Toronto. The fans have been great to me. I love the guys and I love playing here,” he said. “So hopefully I’ll be back.
“I’ll have to see if that (trade) time comes. You never know how things shake out, but I want to be here.”
Lupul, who was once again hampered by injuries and limited to just 55 games, acknowledged it might be time to move on.
“Sometimes, it’s time to move on and I don’t know if it’s that time yet,” said Lupul, who missed games due to a broken bone in his hand and multiple lower body injuries. “Nothing more that I would like than to get this team back into the playoffs and make a run and try and build something good here.
“I didn’t play well enough. I struggled with injuries. I should’ve played better and the team would’ve played better.”
Shanahan has had a year to review the organization from top to bottom on Sunday he fired his general manager, head coach and as many as 20 members of the scouting staff.
This summer multiple players, which made up the core of the Leafs for a number of years, will also find new homes.
“They understand that (Sunday) was just the beginning, there will be some changes,” Shanahan said. “They recognize it. They’ve been around. They understand changes are going to be made.”