Hockey Insider Reveals Friction In The "Core Four".

S. Harper
June 8, 2023  (11:33)

Former Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager Kyle Dubas doubled down in 2018 when asked if he could maintain the "core four" of Auston Matthews, William Nylander, Mitch Marner, and John Tavares, all together with their salaries, while remaining competitive.

Dubas confidently stated,
"We can, we will."

Unfortunately, it seems that this commitment may have contributed to Dubas no longer holding the GM position in Toronto.
Brad Treliving has now assumed the role and has been tasked with working on contract extensions for Matthews and Nylander, who have only one year remaining on their current deals.
However, Treliving may have additional challenges on his plate. According to Elliotte Friedman, there have been discussions within the Leafs' locker room regarding shifting the focus away from the "Core 4" and emphasizing the entire team.
This adjustment is prompted by reported unrest among other players and staff members, who feel that the attention bestowed upon the core group has caused some discontent.

Teammates Sick Of Core Four

One of the things that came out of the season is that Toronto wanted to deemphasize the 'Core 4'. Not that the organization feels anything negative towards those players, but others feel there is too much about them and then 'the other 19'. They felt it interfered in the growth of the team.

If you look at the third and fourth line there's been a lot of turnover the last few years. They haven't done a good enough job at creating identities for other players on their roster. Its not about jealousy, but about winning. They have to get away from that. Some of the depth players may have talked about this in that it gets in the way of forming a team identity. You can't escape it, but can you get around it and create an identity around them?" - Friedman on Wednesday's edition of 32 Thoughts.

He continued by touching on the number of players that have taken turns in their bottom six saying, "Look at all the different people they have had the last few years on their third and fourth line and I think they're trying to figure out if it was good intentions that went bad or could they do a better job of creating roles for these people. They are committed to less oxygen on the Core 4 and more committed to building the team around them. Internally it has effected how they talk about them."

Friedman certainly brings up a good point in that since the "Core 4" has arrived, it has always been about filling holes around them and not creating a cohesive team and it is certainly interesting that information continues to leak out of MLSE since the departure of Kyle Dubas as this is certainly something that the Leafs would want to keep quiet. With a more experienced and hard-nosed GM in Brad Treliving, it will be a summer of change for the Leafs, not just with their roster but internally as well, with their organizational culture.

It's definitely understandable as you win as a team and lose as one. But in Toronto it's more we win with our "C"core four" or as they do in the playoffs lose with their "core four."