Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner spoke to the media Tuesday, addressing the negativity around the team after its 4-3 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday.
During the Leafs' recent road trip, Toronto dropped four consecutive games - three in California - and blew a 3-1 lead against Anaheim on Sunday. Marner committed two blunders which directly led to two Ducks goals, and he was promptly benched.
There has been rampant criticism of the team after Sunday’s loss, and Marner has been mentioned as a potential trade candidate, but he told reporters he’s not paying attention to the round-the-clock media cycle.
“I don’t watch any of you guys on TV, I’m not gonna lie,” Marner said. “I just watch Twitch — if anyone doesn’t know that, it’s guys playing video games. I watch Netflix with my fiancée, a couple of other shows and play video games. I stay off everything. I don’t really need to read anything out there. I know what I need to do to be successful.”
Marner also pushed back against the notion that the Maple Leafs were playing to save head coach Sheldon Keefe’s job. Keefe is widely rumoured to be on the hot seat, even though the organization haven’t provided any signs externally that he’ll get the axe.
“We’re playing to win games. We’re a hockey team that wants to win games,” Marner said. “[Keefe] has done an unbelievable job with this team since he’s came in and done what he’s done. If you look at the numbers, we’ve really improved on a lot of things. He’s done an amazing job here. It’s been a lot of fun to play for him.”
Toronto has struggled to a 4-4-2 record and though it’s a new season, the six consecutive first round playoff losses have cast a dark shadow over every development entering the 2022-23 campaign. Marner has registered two goals and nine points in 10 games thus far, but Toronto’s top-six forwards have already been called out by Keefe earlier this season for their inconsistency.
Marner previously denounced the idea that the benching would rattle his confidence, telling reporters that "everyone tried to put shambles in our brains" after the Maple Leafs crawled to a 2-4-1 start last season, before turning it around.
The criticism comes with the territory. A four-game losing streak with everything riding on this season is going to create a fever pitch in a massive hockey market, but it’s clear that the team is doing their all to block out the noise created by the worst-case scenario at the start of the year.
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