"I love these guys": Rielly doesn't want Leafs' core broken up
After the Toronto Maple Leafs were eliminated at home in overtime of Game 5 on Friday, players were understandably heartbroken.
And despite being on the wrong side of the handshake line many times before, Morgan Rielly, Toronto’s longest-serving player, was too.
The steady defenceman had little to say after the disappointing loss.
“You feel for your teammates, you feel for everybody involved in the loss,” said Rielly, who put up four goals and 12 points through 11 postseason games this year.
As rumours begin to swirl about firings and trades, Rielly also made it clear that he does not want to see the team’s core break up over the offseason.
“We’re proud of our season, the things we were able to do over the course of it,” Rielly said. “I love these guys. I don’t want any change.”
When asked whether he wants another chance to go on a run with the team’s current core, Leafs forward Mitch Marner shared a similar response.
“Yeah. We all got years left on our contracts. I mean, I don’t know. It’s not up to us,” Marner told reporters after Game 5. “We got a lot of belief in this group. We got a lot of belief in that core. Sucks right now, but we got belief.”
While the Leafs broke their 19-year-long curse of not making it past the first round when they beat the Tampa Bay Lightning in six games, their 21-year drought of not seeing the Conference Finals is still intact.
Toronto’s head coach Sheldon Keefe was not one to mince words, explaining that anything short of a championship this season was not good enough.
“This is a missed opportunity for our group,” said Keefe. “We believe we had a team good enough to win the Stanley Cup and we didn’t do that.”
As for the Florida Panthers, beating the Leafs in five punches them their first ticket to the Conference Finals since 1996. They will face the Carolina Hurricanes in Round 3.