Today is an odd day for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Instead of gearing up for what was supposed to be their next game in Calgary against the Flames, they’ll be sitting. That game has been postponed because the Flames are dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak.
That means the team will play in Vancouver on Saturday. The Canucks have been a surging team under new head coach Bruce Boudreau and have won five games in a row. They’ll meet the San Jose Sharks tonight then swing back home for the Maple Leafs game.
In this edition of Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, instead of focusing on the bigger stars of the team, I’m going to share some of the news about the team’s depth players. That’s an area of the team that seems to have been greatly improved this season.
First, however, I want to share the news that broke yesterday that’s about Maple Leafs NHL-leading goalie Jack Campbell.
Item One: Jack Campbell Won’t Be a Part of Team USA for the Olympics
Maple Leafs’ starting goalie Jack Campbell has had a great season and has, in fact, been statistically the NHL’s leading goalie for most of the 2020-21 season. He has won 15 games (which is tied for the NHL lead). He has a great .937 save percentage (also tied for the NHL lead). And, his goals-against-average is 1.94 (which is third in the NHL). However strong that performance has been, it seems he won’t get a nod for Team USA’s Olympic squad.
On The Daily Faceoff on Wednesday, Frank Seravalli reported that in October Campbell hadn’t been put on Team USA’s “long list” and won’t be eligible to represent his country at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China. Although given the omicron variant of the virus’ rapid spread, that might be a moot point, still it seems a bit unfair.
If there is a Winter Olympic Games and if NHL players do play for their countries in China, Campbell will probably be watching the games with Maple Leafs’ teammates or from home.
Item Two: Timothy Liljegren Is Growing into the Job
Against the Edmonton Oilers, in the team’s 5-1 victory, Timothy Liljegren assisted on T.J. Brodie’s first goal of the season. That gave Liljegren his fourth assist of the season and his second in two games. He now has a modest two-game point streak and played over 21 minutes during that game.
When Liljegren began the season, many Maple Leafs’ fans believed he was sure to spend most of his time with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies because he doesn’t have to clear waivers to be moved back and forth. Instead, Liljegren has begun to establish himself solidly with the team.
Liljegren has looked good playing with another young Swedish defenseman Rasmus Sandin, who’s out with an injury. But those two rear guards are adept at moving the puck out of their own end quickly and look good together. Liljegren is playing more than 20 minutes each game for two reasons. First, he’s covering for Sandin’s injury; and, second, head coach Sheldon Keefe is trusting him more.
Item Three: Kyle Clifford Seems Happy to be Home
It seems that Kyle Clifford has been around the NHL a long time (he’s played 12 seasons), but he’s really only 30 years old. This is the second go-around with the Maple Leafs, having come to the team with goalie Jack Campbell in February 2020 from the Los Angeles Kings.
Related: Longest Stanley Cup Droughts
Although Clifford has played exclusively on the fourth line, he collected his second point in two successive games. Those were his first points In his six games with the Maple Leafs. He gives the team some trustworthy depth and probably was a trade-deadline move done in December. This Maple Leafs’ team is already preparing for the playoffs. [Personally, I’m a Clifford fan because we both share a birthday with the Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid. No, I’m not twice as old as both of them put together – not quite anyway.]
Item Four: Is David Kampf Becoming a Scorer?
The assist David Kampf registered against the Oilers was the second game in a row he’s collected a point. He had scored a goal against his old Chicago Blackhawks’ team in the previous game. It’s also the second time during this regular season that Kampf has had a two-game point streak.
While that might not seem like much for another forward, given Kampf’s defense-first mindset it’s notable. On the season, Kampf has four goals and five assists. He’s only scored more than four goals during one season: in 2019-20 he scored eight. He’s also never had a 20-point season before.
He’s likely to set career bests this season. More amazingly, Kampf has a plus-1 rating in 30 games. Given his deployment by coach Keefe, that to me is an amazing statistic.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
The pandemic is raising its ugly head again. Word came yesterday that the province of Ontario would reduce the number of Maple Leafs’ fans attending games. Starting Saturday, the limit for fans attending Scotiabank Arena will be 50 percent of capacity.
Obviously, the Maple Leafs and the Toronto Raptors are not the only sports teams that are hit by the life-threatening virus. As noted when speaking about the Olympics, the spike in COVID-19 cases has been rising. There’s no doubt the NHL will also be creating stricter protocols given what’s happening with the rising number of positive tests among players and team staff members.
Be careful and wise.
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