Facing the daunting prospect of going up against two of the Western Conference's top teams without their number one defenceman, Maple Leafs assistant GM Claude Loiselle stressed the importance of having other players step up and play a better team game.
Speaking on TSN 1050 just hours after the NHL announcement the multiple game ban of Dion Phaneuf, Loiselle noted that the team's inconsistencies on the back-end are due at least in part to not being able to find proper chemistry.
“We have not been able to find the right combination,” Losielle said, noting that a mix of three puck-movers and three stay-at-home defenders is a good combo in his mind.
According to Loiselle, Toronto's blueline has been helped by the arrival of John-Michael Liles, who he says has stepped in after spending 14 games in the AHL – largely because of the Leafs' restricted cap situation – and provided steady play.
“He brings a veteran presence back there and a calmness that's helping our defence,” Loiselle said.
Loiselle also touched on the Dion Phaneuf contract negotiations saying news that the NHL's salary cap will likely be increased by nearly $7-million in 2014 will help the Leafs “tremendously.”
At the same time, in order to get a deal done, he said players have to be willing to be reasonable and take a fair number if the team is going to be able to compete in a salary cap system.
Loiselle: Cap increase helps 'tremendously'