In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs’ News & Notes, I’ll share some of the news emerging from the team as it prepares to finish the final two games of the regular season against the Ottawa Senators and the Winnipeg Jets. The final North Division placements are settled with the Maple Leafs coming in first, the Edmonton Oilers second, the Winnipeg Jets third, and the Montreal Canadiens fourth. That means the Maple Leafs square off against the Canadiens in the first playoff series.
I’ll also add some insights from THW readers who comment on the posts that I write. As always, thank you to THW readers for adding such good extra information in the discussions after the post.
Item One: Goalie Frederik Andersen Back at Maple Leafs’ Practice
It’s a bit of good news that long-time Maple Leafs’ starting goalie Frederik Andersen, who’s been bothered by a knee injury, was back with the Maple Leafs at practice Monday. He had just returned from his conditioning assignment with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies.
However, head coach Sheldon Keefe noted after practice that Andersen hasn’t been cleared to play in NHL games yet. The 31-year-old Danish goalie played two games last week with the Marlies, but it isn’t clear if Andersen will play this week before the playoffs. It isn’t clear if Keefe’s comments are injury-related or salary-cap related.
Andersen has let it be known that he’d like to have an NHL game under his belt before heading to the playoffs; however, we’re not sure what the Maple Leafs’ plans are with Andersen. There’s some belief that, should Andersen play during the regular season, there would be salary-cap implications; however, I haven’t read for certain either way.
During his two games with the Marlies, Andersen faced 52 shots and let in six goals. The Maple Leafs certainly could give Andersen at least one of the upcoming two games – on Wednesday against the Senators or on Friday against the Jets – as a tune-up. But can they do so without invoking any delicate salary-cap issues?
Item Two: Zach Hyman Says He’s Getting Ready to Return
Credit Zach Hyman with a sense of humor. When was asked if his sprained knee was improving and if he were feeling closer to a return to on-ice action, Hyman noted that “Anytime I talk to you guys, it means I’m a step closer to returning so it’s always good. I feel great. I feel really strong out there.”
In fact, he noted after practice on Monday that it was “Great to be back on the ice.”
Hyman has been out since mid-April after he was injured in a knee-to-knee hit from Alexander Edler. He hasn’t played since, but he was practicing in a “regular” jersey Monday so he’s getting closer. Still, it’s unclear if he’ll return before the end of the regular season.
Given each player’s history, Hyman is a notoriously fast starter. He’s probably fine to miss the last two regular-season games. On the other hand, Andersen is a notoriously slow starter. It will be interesting to see how coach Keefe deploys each player. Hyman is the model of a strong two-way forward, and he’s having what’s become his expected strong season with 15 goals and 18 assists (for 33 points) in 43 games.
Item Three: Nick Foligno’s on the Mend and Wants to Play
Nick Foligno, who tweaked some sort of upper-body injury when he stopped suddenly in front of Montreal Canadiens’ goalie Jake Allen, practiced Monday and hopes to play in a game this week. Foligno did reveal more about the injury when he noted that it was something he’d been dealing with for some time, and it flared up on him last week.
He felt good following his first practice with the team on Monday. He’s missed the last two games and it would be good to give him some time with different lines now that Hyman is likely to return and displace Foligno on the team’s top line with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner. Although he’s played well as a top-six winger, moving Foligno to the bottom six offers help to the entire line-up.
Quick Thoughts from THW Readers
I always appreciate the insights that readers add to the research I do pulling together my posts. As many readers know, I’ve been covering the Maple Leafs for only three seasons while so many of you have been fans for life. Nary a post goes by when a reader doesn’t add an insight.
For example, in a recent post I mentioned the huge move this Maple Leafs team’s made over the last few seasons – from last place to first place. Stan Smith reminded me that William Nylander, Morgan Rielly, and Zach Hyman are the only three remaining Maple Leafs from that last-place team. Rielly is the only remaining team member to start that season. Nylander and Hyman were called up on deadline day, Feb. 29, 2016 when NHL teams were able to expand their rosters. Thanks Stan.
Long-time reader and frequent commentator Herb Trollop pointed out what he thought was a difference between the 2020-21 team and teams from previous seasons. Specifically, in the game on May 8 when the Maple Leafs clinched the North Division title, Herb noted that when the Canadiens went up 2-0, he was remembering how often when that happened the Maple Leafs “would mail in the game.”
However, “instead of mailing it in, they dug in and got three well-earned goals” even when Allen was making things tough – especially for Matthews. As Herb noted, Campbell made clutch saves when the team made mistakes and noted that “you need a goalie that can bail you out, and he did. Campbell earned the win for the Leafs and helped them earn the Division Title. Kudos.” Thanks Herb for reminding us about some of the differences we’re seeing in this season’s team.
The Old Prof (Jim Parsons, Sr.) taught for more than 40 years in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. He’s a Canadian boy, who has two degrees from the University of Kentucky and a doctorate 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 simply being a sports fan – hockey, the Toronto Raptors, and CFL football (thinks Ricky Ray personifies how a professional athlete should act).
If you wonder why he doesn’t use his real name, it’s because his son – who’s also Jim Parsons – wrote for The Hockey Writers first and asked Jim Sr. to use another name so readers wouldn’t confuse their 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 “teacher.” The literal translation of lǎoshī is “old teacher.” That became his pen name. Today, other than writing for The Hockey Writers, he teaches graduate students research design at several Canadian universities.
He looks forward to sharing his insights about the Toronto Maple Leafs and about how sports engages life more fully. His Twitter address is https://twitter.com/TheOldProf