In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll take a look at Nicolas Aube-Kubel’s unique celebration of his Stanley Cup victory with the Colorado Avalanche. Second, I’ll report that Joe Thornton won’t be re-signing with the Florida Panthers.
Third, I’ll take a brief look at Wendel Clark’s time with the Maple Leafs and share a personal story about hockey card collecting. Fourth, I’ll probably anger many Maple Leafs’ fans by considering how much worse off some NHL teams are than the Maple Leafs in terms of the value of the contracts they’ve signed.
Item One: Nicolas Aube-Kubel’s Tattoo Includes Stanley Cup Dent
There was really good news and bad news for Nicolas Aube-Kubel the night he was part of the Colorado Avalanche’s Stanley Cup victory. Obviously, the good news was that he had won the Cup and his name would forever be engraved on it. The bad news was that he became one of a small number of players who suffered the ignominy of dropping the “sacred” Cup. In his case, millions of fans watched as he slipped preparing for the team photo, dropped the Cup to the ice, and dented its base.
But give Aube-Kubel full marks for making lemonade from the experience. Recently, as many athletes do to commemorate such events, Aube-Kubel got a tattoo. As you can see above, in his tattoo he had the artist ink the Stanley Cup on his thigh, with an avalanche wrapped around it.
However, what’s different about this tattoo is that he had the artist include the dent at the base of the Stanley Cup. He’ll now be able to remember his fall and its outcome every day.
Item Two: Jumbo Joe Thornton Won’t Re-Sign with Florida Panthers
Recently, we learned that Jumbo Joe Thornton wouldn’t be re-signing with the Florida Panthers. During last season, Thornton only played 34 games, which was the fewest games he’s ever played in any of his 24 NHL seasons. He only scored five goals and added five assists (for 10 points) and was a healthy scratch for the playoffs.
It looks like Thornton’s NHL playing days are done. Although he probably feels as if he could help another team, at least as a voice and presence inside the dressing room, his lack of on-ice production will likely scare off suitors. While Thornton hasn’t made an announcement about his NHL future, it would seem all but certain he’s done.
Given his love of the game and the fact that his off-season home is in Davos, Switzerland, I’m guessing he will play there. I can’t imagine he’d sign on as a PTO. It would seem a bit demeaning for the sure-fire Hockey Hall of Famer.
Item Three: Finding My First Wendel Clark Rookie Card
I’ve been reading more about Maple Leafs’ history recently. Earlier today, I wrote about Dave Keon – who was voted to be the greatest Maple Leafs’ player of all time. Not far behind, at least in the minds of fans, has to be Wendel Clark.
Yesterday, The Hockey Writers re-published a piece I had written earlier titled “Maple Leafs’ 5 Best Wingers of All Time.” In the piece, I included a section on Wendel Clark. Clark was a fan favorite because he came to the Maple Leafs at a time when the team was more than a bit of a circus. He gave the team credibility at a time when it needed it.
As regular THW reader gcmgome reminded me, Clark had a great wrist shot and played a rugged physical game. He would drop his gloves with the toughest customers. On top of that, he was fearless to the point that he became injury-prone. He suffered a series of back problems that kept him out of many games early in his career with the team.
Over his tenure with the Maple Leafs, he was endeared by fans. I remember when my son Jim and I had traveled to Cleveland, Ohio, to take in a baseball game and watch the Cleveland Browns practice late in the summer. As we were visiting a downtown Cleveland card shop, we found our first Wendel Clark rookie card in a bargain basket for a dime.
Over the course of the years, I’m sure we weren’t much different from many families who build relationships by collecting hockey cards and memorabilia. I remain a collector and still hunt down Connor McDavid cards for my grandson.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
When Max Pacioretty was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes by the Vegas Golden Knights with defenseman Dylan Coghlan in July for future considerations, make no mistake. Although Pacioretty was injured much of last season, it was mostly a salary-cap dump. The Golden Knights are in huge trouble trying to drop below the upper limits of the team’s salary cap.
It reminds me that, while the Maple Leafs have been bumping up against the upper limit of the salary cap because of the amount of money the core players are earning, there really isn’t a horrible contract on the team. Most winning NHL teams are in tough against the static salary cap.
The Maple Leafs might have some contracts to move, but they are in no where near the same difficulties as many other teams.