There are those that write about the Toronto Maple Leafs that see the upcoming season as one where the franchise is in contention for the Stanley Cup. Take Steven Simmons, writing earlier this week at The National Post, as an example: "as the Maple Leafs open training camp on Thursday, you can honestly say that for the first time since the ’60s,...you can look at this group, especially the kids, the coach and the management team, and you can see a finish line." Simmons further claimed that the "finish line" was one that could be "ending with a parade," a comment that can only be taken to mean that the season could end with a championship. But the upcoming NHL season for the Leafs might be more about making small-step progress as a team as opposed to ultimately winning the Stanley Cup.

Matthews looking for team progress

Auston Matthews interviewed from training camp on Thursday. The talk in his interview wasn't frivolous in nature by any stretch, but nor did it really contain any kind of reference to winning the NHL's Stanley Cup this season. Instead Matthews spoke about a team that needs to make progress.

After three seasons where they failed to make the playoffs and last season, Matthews' first in the league, where the Leafs fell in the opening round of the playoffs to the Washington Capitals, the 2017/18 Maple Leafs should be more about making the 2nd round of the playoffs than winning a Stanley Cup parade. Arguably, that's a fair interpretation of what Matthews said when he claimed on Thursday that "everyone wants to take a step forward." Making the second round would be "a step forward", whereas winning the Stanley Cup would be an Olympic-sized triple jump.

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Matthews commented on training camp

Matthews, in his recent interview, also spoke about camp being "very competitive" in regard to competition between teammates. Regarding that "internal competition" he said "we obviously all want to be the best players we can be." He remarked that other players doing well boded well for team success. On a personal level Matthews said he had to be "a little bit more assertive," perhaps a bit of a funny remark given that he's a player that scored more goals than he tallied assists in his rookie season (40 goals, 29 assists).

From a team point of view Matthews spoke about staying "more consistent" while referencing his opinion that the team "struggled with tight games" during the early portion of the 2016/17 season. However the Leafs did come on strong in the latter stages of last year and if they pick up where they left off then there should be room to take a step forward and make the second round. The first step toward that goal is to work for a good seed in the first round so as to avoid the high-ranked teams. That is a goal that should be treated as both challenging and realistic with a victory parade perhaps too high of a bar this upcoming season.