TORONTO — Brad Treliving is watching the same games you are.
The Maple Leafs’ general manager sees the same things you do.
The Toronto Maple Leafs (10-6-3, plus-1 goal differential), through 19 games, have delivered a wildly inconsistent on-ice product. Not many of their off-season signings have panned out as desired, their goaltending is playing below league average, and their banged-up defence corps is cracking like chapped lips.
In our eyes, the Leafs simply don’t look like a championship threat — yet.
The new GM is more diplomatic, but we’ll trust he agrees.
“From a manager’s perspective, we’re always looking at how you’re playing. To me, we’ve been hit and miss. There’s been some inconsistency in our game, right? Which is a little concerning,” Treliving said Monday, during an impromptu scrum at the club’s Etobicoke practice facility.
“My overwhelming theme is, we just got to become more consistent as a group.”
That includes everyone from the superstar duo of Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, who will be split up for the first game all season Tuesday against the visiting Florida Panthers, to his up-and-down goalie tandem of Ilya Samsonov and Joseph Woll. (Well, everyone but William Nylander, still scheduled to walk on July 1.)
Treliving appeared calm and conversational during his nine-minute Q&A inside the Leafs’ dressing room, but the executive made it clear he’d like to import help from the outside and demands better from the existing roster.
Here are the topics Treliving touched on in the nine minutes before his availability was ended by staff:
Is he exploring the trade market in November?
Absolutely. That’s a GM’s job. Always.
So, yes, the Maple Leafs are weighing the cost of offering up more assets (picks, prospects, players) for an impact defenceman or two.
“Because you’re trying to help your team now,” Treliving said. “The idea that you’re always just going to trade yourself out of out of issues isn’t realistic.”
Treliving pointed to the D corps’ injury rash (Timothy Liljegren, John Klingberg, Conor Timmins) demanding they overextend depth blueliners such as Simon Benoit and William Lagesson.
“It was an area that we wanted to see if we could strengthen regardless. Now, when you have injuries, it tests your depth,” Treliving said.
“You have people probably playing higher and more minutes than you want, and they’re hanging in there, but it’s certainly an area we’d like to look at and see if there’s a way to help ourselves.”
We know Treliving has his eyes on Calgary’s blueline rentals, but other trade options will surface closer to the deadline.
The satutus of Klingberg and his injured hip
Klingberg, we learned, injured his hip(s) in the Oct. 19 loss in Florida, which helps explains the $4.15-million signing’s struggles.
“This wasn’t something that we knew the player was injured and we went and signed him anyhow. We knew the history of the player [double hip surgery in 2014], but we didn’t anticipate that there was going to be an issue,” Treliving said.
Klingberg is meeting with specialists in New York who will help determine if surgery is necessary for a hip issue that has not improved on its own, despite aggressive treatment.
Treliving is optimistic that the club will have a prognosis by week’s end.
Should Klingberg require season-ending surgery and remain on LTIR, the Leafs can spend some of his cap space elsewhere.
William Nylander’s contract status
From the Leafs’ perspective, nothing has changed on the Nylander front. Though his scorching 12-goal, 27-point showing has only ratcheted up the stock of what should be the most handsome(ly paid) unrestricted free agent of 2024.
“Willy has had a tremendous start to the year. I don’t think this is just a hot start; he’s a really good player,” Treliving said.
“I stated from Day 1, our objective was to get Auston signed — we got him signed. Our objective is to get Willy signed, and we’re working at it.”
Ryan Reaves’ struggles
Treliving knows there are critics of his three-year summertime signing of forward Ryan Reaves, who looks to be drawing back into the lineup Tuesday.
The rugged fourth-liner is a team-worst minus-11 and has been scratched four times 19 games into a $4.05-million contract.
“Reavo will probably be the first to tell you he’s had a tough start,” said Treliving, encouraged that Reaves scored Friday in Chicago. “The thought process behind that [signing] is what he can add to our room. Like a lot of things, I think he can play better. He’s had some bad luck. I know that there’s gets a lot reported about plus/minus and all the rest of it. He knows he can be better. But he’s chewed on some minuses, in my opinion, that aren’t related to him. And sometimes you go through stretches like that. So, hopefully the Chicago game is a good sign to come. But we need more from a lot of guys here right now.”
That would include Samsonov and Woll, whose combined .892 save percentage ranks 20th league-wide.
“I do think goaltending can clean up a lot of messes for you. But you can also clean up a lot of messes and make the goaltending look better,” Treliving said. “There’s a yin and yang there.
“I will put them in the same category as the rest of the group — there can be some more consistent play.”