Reaves vows to be loud presence in bid to get grittier Leafs over hump
The Leafs & Legends Charity Golf Classic took place at RattleSnake Point Golf Club in Milton, Ont., on Monday.
After Nick Cousins scored the series-clinching goal for Florida in overtime of Game 5 in Toronto in May, Radko Gudas screamed in the face of rookie goalie Joseph Woll.
"I hope he tries that," said Ryan Reaves said with a grin. "That would be interesting wouldn't it. Yeah, it'd be fun. I doubt there's going to be any of that here."
Radko Gudas Florida Panthers Joseph Woll Toronto Maple Leafs
Reaves, who signed a three-year deal with the Leafs this summer, is sending a swaggering message before even playing a shift with his new team. He's happy to fill reporter notebooks. He isn't worried about trending in Toronto. And he's just as chatty behind closed doors.
"I'm an energy guy," the 6-foot-2, 225-pound winger said. "It's not going to be a quiet [dressing] room anymore, I'll tell you that much."
"I just felt both on the ice and in our room and around our team we need a little more noise," Brad Treliving said on July 1 after making Reaves his first signing as Leafs general manager. "One thing in talking with the staff and looking at this group: It's a quiet group."
Reaves made it clear he won't hesitate to speak up despite his status as a newcomer on the team.
"I come in pretty hot," the 36-year-old boasted. "I tend to just chirp people right away and gauge their reaction ... I don't really shy into it."
Treliving aimed to add some "snot" to his lineup during his first free-agent frenzy at the helm in Toronto. In addition to inking Reaves, Max Domi and Tyler Bertuzzi were added on one-year deals. What will they bring?
"A lot of grit," Reaves said. "They both have a lot of skill too, but maybe something this team's been missing is a little bit of grit over the last couple years and I think those guys fit the mould of what we need here. They're exactly what was needed."
The Leafs have been a strong regular season team during most of the Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner era, but they have lost seven of eight playoff series contested. Reaves sees a core on the cusp of winning a Stanley Cup.
"You look at this team from last year, the last couple seasons, what they do in the regular season, it's only a matter of time," he said. "I just want to be here when it happens."
Reaves may not be a front-line player, but he's suited up in 108 playoff games, which leads his new team.
"I've been around for 14 years," Reaves said. "I've been on good teams. I've been on some bad teams. I've been to a bunch of conference finals, a Cup final, so I know what it takes to get there. I've seen the things that work and the things that really hurt you in the playoffs and I hope to pass that knowledge along."
The other new recruits can also provide some playoff pedigree. Domi picked up 13 points in 19 playoff games while helping the Dallas Stars reach the Western Conference final last season.
"A good push in Dallas last spring and learned a lot," Domi said.
Bertuzzi, meanwhile, led the Boston Bruins with 10 points during their seven-game loss to the Panthers.
"That was my first taste of playoff hockey," Bertuzzi said. "It's the best time of year ... to get a feel for that, I want to be back in it."
Domi has bounced around since breaking into the National Hockey League with the Arizona Coyotes in 2015-16. Toronto will be his seventh stop and fifth since the 2021-22 season.
"I've played on so many teams now, which has been a blessing in disguise," the 28-year-old said. "You're getting thrown in different situations, different systematic vibes, different coaches and obviously with that you'll play left wing, right wing, centre and learn how to be more of a utility guy. Wherever I'm asked to play, I'll be ready to go. I've told [coach Sheldon] Keefe that."
Domi played for Toronto's forever rival, the Montreal Canadiens, for two seasons (2018-20). While he was a member of the Habs, Domi raised eyebrows by comparing the atmosphere in Montreal to that in Toronto. Well, actually, he said there was no real comparison to be made.
"Montreal is a whole other level," the son of former Leaf Tie Domi said during a summer BioSteel camp in 2019. "Toronto's got their fans and the Leaf Nation is pretty big but there's nothing even close to Montreal and their fans. The fan base for the Montreal Canadiens is second to none."
Now that he's playing for the Leafs, has his opinion changed?
"I was waiting for that one," Domi said with a chuckle. "Well, if I'm being completely honest with you, like, playing in Montreal was one of the coolest experiences in my life and the fan base was so good to me there and I miss my days in Montreal for sure. But I'm a big believer in you are where your two feet are and I'm home now in Toronto and, like I said earlier, it's always been a dream of mine to play here. So, nothing but great memories of playing in Montreal, but all in on Toronto now."
Growing up around the game, Domi's learned to tune out any potential distraction.
"You kind of block that stuff out to be honest with you," Domi said when asked about the love he received from Leafs Nation after signing with Toronro. "With media comes positive stuff and negative as well so the best way to avoid either of those things is to not ride the rollercoaster and just try to stay even keel. It's [easier] said than done, but I've been around it long enough now. I've been around it my whole life so nothing new and just looking forward to getting started."
While Domi is back home, the other newcomers are still getting used to life in the centre of the hockey universe.
"It's good to get everyone out here," Bertuzzi said of Monday's charity golf event. "I haven't got the chance to talk to media yet or meet many fans yet so it's going to be fun to meet everyone and get acclimated with that.
What's the 28-year-old's comfort level in the Toronto spotlight?
"Ah, we'll see," Bertuzzi said before breaking into a sly smile. "A lot of one-word answers. No, it will be fun. Something different. I'm sure I'll get used to it."
Bertuzzi, who started his career with the rebuilding Red Wings in Detroit before a deadline deal sent him to Boston last season, got a taste of the intense media scrutiny on Monday. He was asked about potentially playing with Matthews on the top line.
"That's up to the coach," he said. "Time will tell."
What about possibly signing an extension in January if things are going well?
"I haven't even played my first game yet," he said with a smile. "But it's been awesome so far so time will tell with that too."
For now, the native of Sudbury, Ont., is simply soaking up the experience.
"A lot of people reaching out and it's cool," he said. "It's not my hometown, but I'm close to here. Being from Ontario everyone is either a Leafs fan, Montreal fan or an Ottawa fan so a lot of duels back home, a lot of fans."
The Leafs will open training camp with medicals on Wednesday. Treliving, Keefe and the leadership group (captain John Tavares and alternates Matthews, Marner and Morgan Rielly) are scheduled to meet with the media. Coverage starts on TSN.ca at 9:30 am ET.