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Spezza’s role as Maple Leafs’ elder statesman a crucial team component this season

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Towards the tip of their group’s training-camp session on Thursday on the Ford Efficiency Centre, Jason Spezza and Kurtis Gabriel met at centre ice.

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Spezza, the oldest Leafs veteran, needed to supply some fast recommendation to Gabriel, considered one of a number of low season additions.

“You need to assist a man like that out when it comes to getting up to the mark with the programs,” Spezza mentioned. “Simply making an attempt to assist him — nothing out of the abnormal, simply common stuff.”

Certainly, nothing out of the abnormal for Spezza, who marked his thirty eighth birthday this previous June and obtained a well-earned present a couple of days later when he signed a one-year, $750,000 US contract to stay with the Leafs.

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Spezza not solely expects to carry it on the ice once more in 2021-22 — with 30 factors in 54 video games final season, and 5 in seven playoff video games, he demonstrated he’s doing greater than hanging on on the finish of a prolonged NHL profession — his affect within the dressing room will proceed to be a key part because the Leafs attempt to totally get better from their first-round collapse towards the Montreal Canadiens.

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“It’s not simply who he’s and what he says, however it’s what he does every single day, the work he places in within the low season, not simply with the NHL gamers however with our younger prospects,” Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe mentioned. “The character he has, the expertise he has, he’s a terrific asset.

“For the gamers who’re navigating their manner by way of their NHL careers, it’s good to have a man like him.

“He has confirmed he can (contribute on the ice) as properly and has actually established himself in a pleasant function with us.”

Spezza has little interest in burying the loss versus Montreal someplace deep in his reminiscence financial institution. He spoke on Thursday of the Leafs’ accountability to themselves in dealing with that final week in Might, when Toronto blew a 3-1 collection lead and misplaced with a weak effort in Sport 7, head on.

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That got here after the Leafs handily gained the one-time-only North Division, ending 5 factors forward of the Edmonton Oilers.

For a younger(ish) Leafs crew nonetheless making an attempt to appreciate playoff success, Spezza’s phrases ought to hit residence.

“I don’t need to overlook any of it, as a result of I need to be taught from all of it,” Spezza mentioned of the 2020-21 season as a complete.

“We realized that the tighter defence we performed acquired us to first within the division and allowed us to make playoffs in a great place. After which the loss that we suffered stung, and it was brutal and it left us considering what we wanted to do completely different. You may’t simply slough these issues apart.

“It’s one thing to lean in on and actually assault. It’s important to really feel the ache of it. It’s essential for us as a bunch and it ought to inspire us.”

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How do the Leafs want to use that ache for additional development?

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“Simply that we’d like extra,” Spezza mentioned. “Folks might criticize the best way we play or how we do issues, however the actuality is we have been very constant final 12 months and we had ourselves in a very good place within the playoffs, after which we simply didn’t end the job.

“The way in which we apply it’s realizing that every one that work we did didn’t get us wherever and we now have to do extra, realizing how onerous it’s to win and the way you are able to do issues actually persistently, however if you get to these essential moments you must have the idea.

“We are able to’t anticipate that we’re going to cruise by way of an everyday season and get to that and switch a swap on.”

Slightly extra instantly, Spezza is anticipating taking part in video games in entrance of followers once more. It’s anticipated that MLSE will get the inexperienced mild from the provincial authorities to permit roughly 9,500 followers at Scotiabank Enviornment for the pre-season recreation towards Montreal on Saturday, with MLSE hoping that the constructing will likely be full for the regular-season opener on Oct. 13.

“We missed the followers,” Spezza mentioned. “With an 82-game season, it will be unimaginable to have individuals within the constructing. I do know my household and mates need to be again cheering me on.

“Now we have among the finest followers on the planet and we would like them there with us. Let’s get the rink rocking once more.”

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