In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I want to look at a number of rumors swirling around the team. I also will share some of former coach Paul McFarland’s insights about the Maple Leafs’ core players. Finally, I’ll take a long look at what analysts suggest the team should do with starting goalie Frederik Andersen.
Item One: Is Bruce Boudreau a Possible Maple Leafs Coach?
According to James Mirtle from The Athletic, reports that Bruce Boudreau might be considered for an assistant coaching job with the Maple Leafs isn’t just idle rumor. Mirtle noted that the team contacted the Minnesota Wild about interviewing Boudreau for a coaching position on Sheldon Keefe’s bench. However, he also reported that the meeting hasn’t happened, and Mirtle believes it’s a “long shot,” (from “Why Bruce Boudreau is a candidate to join the Maple Leafs coaching staff,” The Athletic, 19/08/20).
However, there’s also a report that the 65-year-old former head coach had heard the news and was “intrigued.” Boudreau has strong coaching credentials; his .635 points percentage trails only Scotty Bowman and Jon Cooper among NHL coaches who’ve coached a minimum of 500 NHL games.
The rumors suggest that Boudreau might replace Paul McFarland (who recently left the Maple Leafs to become head coach and GM of the Kingston Frotenacs) as an offensive and power-play coach. The Wild’s power play had its best record in franchise history under Boudreau from 2016 until he was fired by general manager Bill Guerin in Feb. 2020, with more than a 20% success rate.
Boudreau also had success with both the Washington Capitals and the Anaheim Ducks and coached both teams to more than 50 wins four times (2008-09 and 2009-10 with Washington and 2013-14 and 2014-15 with Anaheim).
If Boudreau takes a job with the Maple Leafs, it would likely be temporary as he reportedly remains interested in being an NHL head coach.
Item Two: Paul McFarland Speaks About the Team’s Core Players
At the end of the Maple Leafs’ season, two coaches left the team. McFarland will return to the Kingston Frontenacs and Andrew Brewer’s contract was not renewed. Brewer was a Mike Babcock protégée.
McFarland was the head coach of the Frontenacs for three seasons between 2014-17. He’s an up-and-comer who will likely become an NHL head coach in the future. In two seasons as an assistant coach with the Florida Panthers (between 2017-2019) and one with the Maple Leafs (2019-20), he coached the power play and earned a reputation as an innovative offensive coach.
McFarland likely left the Panthers to join Mike Babcock’s Maple Leafs because he saw a chance to become the head coach when Babcock retired. However, when Keefe replaced Babcock, McFarland likely saw a Maple Leafs head-coaching job as a dead-end. Obviously, Keefe understands that choice.
Yesterday during an interview on Sportsnet 590 radio, McFarland had some interesting things to say about the Maple Leafs’ core players. Specifically, he was impressed by how much they cared.
McFarland noted, “The work that those guys put in, especially in these circumstances with the pause in the season over the course of Phase 2 and Phase 3 just to get prepared.” Obviously, the team had hoped to play more than five games, but he added that it was “an exceptional group of people” who were “really dedicated to their craft.”
He also brought up the difficulty of facing the criticism that “comes with the territory of playing in such a great market like Toronto.” But, he believes, “These are only things that are going to help them get better and grow. It was an impressive group just to see their level of care and dedication to their own game. It is only going to bode well for them going forward.”
Item Three: Has Frederik Andersen Played His Last Game for the Maple Leafs?
One lingering question is about the fate of starting goalie Frederik Andersen. With one year left on his contract before he becomes a free agent, should the Maple Leafs offer him an extension, let him play out his final season and walk, or try to trade him?
The issue with Andersen is that he is up and down. Sometimes he looks unbeatable, and other times he plays as he did in Game 5 against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Many critics believe that Game 5 goalie isn’t good enough to lead the Maple Leafs past the first round of the postseason. The consensus seems to be that extending Andersen’s contract now would be a mistake.
Last week Sportsnet’s Luke Fox suggested that Andersen’s future is uncertain and that it isn’t urgent to negotiate a new deal. Fox believes that Andersen will be “given one more shot to finally backstop the Leafs to a playoff series win and that Jack Campbell should be given a larger share of starts to (a) keep Andersen fresh and (b) discover if Campbell can become a legit 1B.”
Elliotte Friedman agreed with Fox, noting, “I don’t think they’re extending him.” Friedman also noted there are too many questions about Andersen’s game and too many viable options in a loaded goalie market this offseason not to consider them.
Friedman was likely looking at the goalie horizon as Braden Holtby, Corey Crawford, Robin Lehner, Cam Talbot, Thomas Greiss, Matt Murray, and Anton Khudobin are all pending unrestricted free agents.
It never seems wise to simply let upcoming free agents leave without compensation; however, because the Maple Leafs seem to compete for the Stanley Cup playoffs each season, they can’t make deadline deals that return young assets – as the Ottawa Senators did so well last season.
On the other hand, letting veterans walk might be smarter than signing them to large contracts and then trying to dump those contracts later, like the Maple Leafs did last season when general manager Kyle Dubas moved Patrick Marleau’s contract to the Carolina Hurricanes.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
Changes are coming. But, will these changes be what fans want to see happen. Is there any consensus about what those changes might be?
I keep thinking it will be an interesting offseason for the Maple Leafs, which will only be compounded by the flat salary cap and the continuing impact of COVID-19 on what the NHL will look like for the 2020-21 season.