Members of the Toronto Maple Leafs' front office and coaching staff are on the same page, assistant general manager Kyle Dubas said. And it's not the same page that includes the NHL standings.
Despite the team's stretch of seven victories in its past nine games, Dubas said president Brendan Shanahan, general manager Dave Nonis and coach Randy Carlyle aren't happy with the way the Leafs have been outshot and outplayed.
"There's nobody content that we've gone 7-1-1 in this stretch," Dubas said on a conference call Thursday. "There's no one really content with it. It's trying to continue to hone in on our process and really maximize our potential as a team."
This state-of-the-team address by Dubas might've been necessary after the Leafs beat the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday night in a game where they owed everything to backup goaltender James Reimer. Toronto was outshot 42-19 but won in a shootout almost single-handedly because of Reimer.
Dubas said Thursday that no one has to be an analytics expert to recognize that's not great. Recent trends beyond that game are also troubling, like the Leafs being outshot 303-247 over this nine-game run, an average of around 34-27 a game.
In the process, the Leafs have picked up 15 points and moved into the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. That's with some smoke, a few mirrors and mostly No. 1 goaltender Jonathan Bernier saving their hides.
"We've managed to find a way to win," Dubas said. "We've shot the puck well, we've made the most of our opportunities, we've gotten terrific goaltending."
The Leafs got off to similar starts the past two seasons before collapsing under the weight of their own struggles. In 2013 it was a Game 7 loss to the Boston Bruins after a lockout-shortened 48-game season, and in 2013-14 it was an eight-game regulation losing streak that dropped them out of playoff contention.
Asked about the pattern of being outshot badly in certain stretches lately, Dubas said the team has "ideas" about what's wrong and how to fix it but didn't want to share much more than that. Given the past couple of years, this doesn't seem to be a new problem.
"It's a process," Dubas said. "I can tell you that within the organization that everyone who's been here has been aware of the issues that have been there, and now we're just trying to all work together to correct them and move ahead."
One thing the Leafs need to do better, according to Dubas, is play with the lead. Evidence of how to do that came in the two games after the infamous 9-2 loss to the Nashville Predators on Nov. 18, when the Leafs beat the Tampa Bay Lightning and Red Wings.
"We did a really, really good job of closing out those games when we were up and we weren't overly conservative, did a good job not giving up too much to two very good teams," Dubas said. "Then in the last couple games here, that's started to sag a little bit. But I think that's the one area that if we can hone in on that and just continue to find ways where we can close out games better, where we don't let our goalie close it out for us on his own, that'd be terrific."
Dubas's comments weren't all bad. How could they be for a team that has won seven of nine? He sees the potential in the Leafs' strong moments
"We've shown stretches of playing the way we're fully capable of," he said. "That's probably what intrigues me the most about the group moving forward is the way that we've shown we can play. It's been there. It's a prolonged process ahead, and that's the way I look at it. I'm excited to see if we can start to put that together over the long run."
Note — Dubas said there's no timetable for the return of forward Leo Komarov, who has missed the past five games with a concussion.