Wilson thinks Leafs are close

ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:12 PM ET

TORONTO - Sure it has been six springs out of the playoffs, but Ron Wilson expects the fun of futility not just to end soon, but with a bang.

The Maple Leafs coach said Monday that the team is close not just to fight for a fringe spot in the Stanley Cup tournament but to be a serious threat for whatever they might face.

“We’re probably two or three pieces from being a true contender,” Wilson said on locker cleanout day at the Air Canada Centre. “I’m talking a contender not for the playoffs, I’m talking for the Stanley Cup.”

We’ll pause for a moment to allow that to sink in, and yes, it was said with a straight face.

Wilson’s point was that the team showed him a lot down the stretch, finally erasing what he felt was a difficult culture around the squad in his first two seasons with the team.

“I’m comfortable with the group, more than any I’ve had in a long time,” Wilson said. “We’ve grown together, (are) improving together and believing together without any baggage to carry on. I really believe that’s what helped us down the stretch as we got younger. A lot of our players had a belief system that seemed to change.”

Defenceman Luke Schenn, who has been around for all three of Wilson’s seasons at the helm of the Blue and White, says he can sense the shift as well.

“The first couple years, everyone was saying: ‘Next year should be better,’ but I think it was more hoping that it would be better,” Schenn said. “Now I think there’s kind of bit of a belief they we are on the right track.

“It seems like there is a plan in place.”

rob.longley@sunmedia.ca

twittern.com/longleysunsport


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