I like this Toronto Maple Leafs team. And, I’m going to offer six reasons.
Reason one: I think he has a forward core matched by no other team in the NHL: Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, John Tavares and the oft-forgotten jack of all trades Alex Kerfoot.
Reason two: I think the team has the ingredients for a solid defense with Morgan Rielly, TJ Brodie and Jake Muzzin; and I really like the young and up-and-coming talent of Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren.
Reason three: I like goalkeeper Jack Campbell, and I hope that Petr Mrazek can play a part and contribute in a way that helps Campbell survive and thrive.
Reason four: I like the new offseason additions the Maple Leafs added: David Kampf, Ondrej Kase and Michael Bunting.
Reason five: I like the toughness of the team: the quiet exchange of Kyle Clifford, the strength of Wayne Simmonds and maybe even Nick Ritchie during the playoffs when he takes on a more physical role.
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Reason 6: I like the team’s special gear upgrades. They are the first in the power play and very high in the penalty. And, except for the occasional cerebral fumble, they can play solid defense for the team.
Reason seven: Sheldon Keefe has gotten better as a coach. He’s not playing with his key forwards as much, and he’s making reasoned decisions without the panic we saw when the Maple Leafs lost to the Columbus Blue Jackets in the bubble two years ago.
The Maple Leafs need to stop the trade deadline madness
I don’t think the Maple Leafs need to reload at the trade deadline. Also, I specifically think they shouldn’t do any trade deadline deals that eliminate any draft pick or prospect. Instead, I think they should stick with the team they have; and, perhaps, if any trades are to be made, go out and find a tougher, cheaper, more experienced defender on the junk heap of some team that won’t accept a king’s ransom to bring him in. That’s it.
On Saturday, an article written by columnist Damien Cox for the toronto star he suggested the Maple Leafs shouldn’t make a single trade at the next trade deadline. He may not go that far, because I think one more Zach Bogosian guy somewhere could add defensive depth and a mean attitude that could help the team move forward. (from “The Leafs shouldn’t make a single trade. They need to find out what they’re made of, Damien Cox, toronto star, 01/29/22).
The name of Luke Schenn (now with the Vancouver Canucks) springs to mind. In a game a few nights ago, when the 6-foot-5 Adam Lowry of the Winnipeg Jets ran into the Canucks’ big young defenseman Quinn Hughes, Schenn stepped forward and tackled Lowry to the ground. . He is the type of player that I would add.
A case for the Maple Leafs not even making a trade
Cox’s article argued that it’s time to stop the madness the Maple Leafs seem to engage in every season. Specifically, he was talking about the old frustrating dance of making the right move at the trade deadline in hopes of finding that “final” piece that would propel the Maple Leafs to playoff success.
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Maple Leafs fans know all too well the frustration of such a failure. Every season the team does just that and every season the team just falls short. Maybe this is the season to end the pattern. And that’s what Cox wrote in his article. Let the team show what they can do.
It’s not that the team hasn’t made some good moves at the trade deadline and it’s not that the team hasn’t made some mistakes. But none of them worked out, and since 2004 the team hasn’t gotten out of the first round as Maple Leafs fans know.
Last season’s GM Kyle Dubas learned a lesson
Last season, fan-favorite scapegoat Kyle Dubas followed the same script and added character player and former high-scoring forward Nick Foligno of the Blue Jackets. To get Foligno, there was a first and fourth round draft pick. Foligno gave the team almost nothing and we all know how that story ended.
When I saw Dubas pick up Kyle Clifford from the St. Louis Blues after he was waived by the NHL, my first thought was that Dubas was writing a different script this season. I was already making decisions on the trade deadline without making it on the trade deadline.
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I think Nick Ritchie’s physical reputation and size were aspects of his attraction during the offseason. Dubas rehired Wayne Simmonds for a reason. He knows that if the Maple Leafs play the Boston Bruins during a playoff round, first Simmonds would be over Brad Marchand, then it would be Clifford, then Ritchie. Muzzin would no longer be the only option.
Is this the season to do nothing or little?
I agree with Cox that this is the year to do nothing, or my warning would be to do “little.” There are no prospects or top draft picks. There is no expensive rent on.
As an interesting part of Cox’s article in the toronto star, to see the reaction of readers, the article included a short poll at the end where readers could vote. Those votes were then tabulated. The options and current vote numbers are below:
#1: I don’t care what they do, just win a playoff round. Please. (32.68% of voters – or 133 voters chose this option)
#2: I’ll let Kyle Dubas do his job. I trust you will make the right decision. (25.8% of voters, or 105 voters chose this option)
#3: Stand firm. Time to see what this team is made of. (22.11% of voters, or 90 voters chose this option)
#4: Make a trade. Even if it didn’t work last year, they have to try to improve. (19.41% of voters, or 79 voters chose this option)
I can’t even imagine what could happen during any postseason run.
I have no idea what can happen during any Stanley Cup race. I don’t think last season’s streak was a fair estimate of the team’s ability because Tavares got hurt so quickly. I don’t think last season’s team had the pieces that this team has. And I think the team has better skills, more depth and a more defined set of roles and expectations.
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I think this team has the pieces and I think, more or less, it should be challenged to stay the course. A little tweaking in defense can be helpful, but no need to panic buy.
The old professor (Jim Parsons, Sr.) taught for more than 40 years in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. He is a Canadian boy, who has two degrees from the University of Kentucky and a Ph.D. from the University of Texas. He is now retired on Vancouver Island, where he lives with his family. His hobbies include playing with his hockey cards and just being a sports fan: hockey, the Toronto Raptors, and CFL football (he thinks Ricky Ray epitomizes how a professional athlete should act).
If you’re wondering why he doesn’t use his real name, it’s because his son, who is also Jim Parsons, wrote for The hockey writers first and asked Jim Sr. to use another name so readers wouldn’t confuse his work.
Because Jim Sr. had worked in China, he adopted the Mandarin word for teacher (老師). The first character lǎo (老) means “old” and the second character shī (師) means “master”. The literal translation of lǎoshī is “old master”. That became his pseudonym. Today, apart from writing for The hockey writers, teaches research design to graduate students at various Canadian universities.
He looks forward to sharing his thoughts on the Toronto Maple Leafs and how sports get more involved in life. His Twitter address is https://twitter.com/TheOldProf