NHL Rumors: Maple Leafs Leaning In Different Direction On 'The Core 4'

For the last several years, the Toronto Maple Leafs' vaunted "Core 4" hasn't been able to get the team to the next level. Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander and John Taveras. Great players, all. But has the team around them been good enough? 

According to NHL Insider Elliotte Friedman on his 32 Thoughts podcast, the Leafs will be "de-emphasizing" those four as the focal point going forward, and focusing more on the team as a whole.

Overall, I've heard that they are committed to 'less oxygen' on the Core 4, and more about building the team around them... It wasn't anything about them being bad guys necessarily, but there's so much talk in that (Toronto) market about it, that they think it has internally affected how even they talk about them, and you can't have 4+19, you've gotta be a full 23.

As usual, the Core 4 have been at the center of all the player-related talk surrounding the Leafs so far this summer:

There's been a lot of talk about Matthews having an extension window opening up on July 1st, as he approaches what would otherwise become unrestricted free agency at the end of next season; there's been talk about both Matthews and  Marner having full no-move clauses kick in on that same date, and Nylander a partial no-trade clause; and also does new GM Brad Treliving pull the trigger and actually go nuclear and trade one or more of the Core 4?

But what about the rest of the lineup? "I think there was a feeling amongst... other players on the team, some of the coaching staff and the entire organization," says Friedman, "that there's too much about the Core 4. They felt it interfered with the growth of the team.

"If you take a look at the 3rd and 4th line over the years, there's been a lot of turnover... The feeling was, that they haven't done a good enough job as a group creating enough of an identity for the other players on the roster... And I heard that's a big thing they're going to work on."

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