The face of the Toronto Maple Leafs‘ front office has changed, but how much might that affect the philosophy of the club moving forward?
According to Mitch Marner, not much.
“Regardless of who got the job, Kyle [Dubas] or Mark [Hunter], they both dealt with Lou [Lamoriello] for a couple years, they knew what they had to do to be successful,” Marner said during an in-studio Prime Time Sports appearance on Thursday. “It’s an exciting time. I can’t wait for the season to start, it should be fun.”
Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan hired Dubas out of the OHL’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in 2014 as part of the “Shanaplan,” and stuck to that script this spring in making his front office changes. That included Lamoriello transitioning from to a senior advisor role after three years as Maple Leafs GM and being replaced by Dubas.
“It’s pretty cool now to have him. Obviously he’s a younger guy,” Marner said of Dubas, 31. “I think he’s going to bring a lot of character to our team.”
Of course, Lamoriello took over hockey operations with the New York Islanders a few weeks later — the same day Hunter, who many credit with the decision to draft Marner out of the OHL’s London Knights in 2015, chose to leave the Maple Leafs’ front office after Dubas was promoted.
Marner spoke highly of Lamoriello, the only GM he’s known during his NHL career so far.
“He was great, he helped me out a lot,” Marner said of the longtime NHL executive. “He kept me honest, made sure no matter which player it was, they were going out and giving it a full effort. He would let you know if you were doing something that he didn’t like. Obviously that’s very old-school, but every player needed that. He was fun to have around these last couple years and kind of learn off of.”
“He would always be watching from up top,” Marner continued. “Every time you looked up in practise, he was up there sitting there watching. I mean, if anything happened, it was a pretty quick text or call up to the office and sitting face-to-face with him. He was always a fan of the face-to-face conversations. No matter which player you are, he kept you honest.”
Marner also discussed how he plans on developing his game, how he feels about playing alongside Auston Matthews, and the strongest bonds he shares with teammates. Here are some notable quotes from the interview:
On which aspect of his game he hopes to improve most:
“I think being more dynamic on the ice. I think that’s the thing, being more of a shooter. Through those last 60 games [of 2017-18] I think I kind of taught myself to shoot the puck a little more. I think getting my shot better, just making sure I’m getting to the net more and making it harder on d-men to kind of get me away from the net.”
On whether he’d like to play more with Auston Matthews — the dream duo according to Leafs fans:
“Obviously he’s a great talent, a lot of fun to play with. I got a couple chances this year. But saying that, I think any centreman on our team, they’re fun to play with…
“The amount of scoring that guy can put up, I’m always a pass-first kind of guy and if you do the math it looks like it could work out well.”
On his relationship with veteran Patrick Marleau:
“He’s in San Jose now, sadly. But I think that’s going to be one thing [this off-season] is going up to San Jose for a week or so and work out with him, go on the ice with him. His family has been unbelievable with me and mine, he’s been a guy that you can talk to about anything and obviously he’s been through a lot in San Jose. So it’s been a pleasure to have him on our team.”
On who he considers his best pal on the roster:
“Patty’s up there, [Matthews] is up there. Probably [Matt] Martin though. Martin’s been there since Day One. He’s been the same way as Patty, he was just here a year before. He helped me out a lot and was by my side through everything. Him and his girlfriend, they’ve been unbelievable with me and mine.”