While the Toronto Maple Leafs were busy this offseason bringing in new faces to address weaknesses, general manager Kyle Dubas believes it'll take growth from the players already in the dressing room for the club to reach its maximum potential.
"There's so much focus sometimes placed on bringing in one or two players and the impact that they can make, but the reality is if that level of competitiveness, and grit, and toughness, as we term it, is going to permeate through the locker room, it's going to be through the maturity of the group that's already there," Dubas told TSN.
"Our core group is really embracing the fact that this is a wonderful opportunity. If they're willing to sacrifice a little bit in each of their own individual realms, as all young teams do, then we'll really reach our full potential."
Dubas made a point of acquiring grittier players over the fall, landing veterans Wayne Simmonds and Zach Bogosian in free agency while also adding Joe Thornton, who adds 22 seasons of experience to a young lineup.
Although the Leafs roster looks significantly different from their qualifying-round outfit this past summer, Dubas ensured he's not looking for his club to drastically alter the way they play.
"When we talk about toughness with our group, it's very simple the way we define it," Dubas said. "If there's a 50-50 puck, do you desperately want to win that puck every single time? And are you willing to be the first one on the puck? Are you willing to go to the difficult areas of the ice with and without the puck and be successful?"
Toronto lost in the qualifying round to the Columbus Blue Jackets in August. The club has reached the postseason in each of the past four campaigns but hasn't won a series since 2004.