In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll take a look at how the Maple Leafs’ lineup is viewed by other teams — especially the Tampa Bay Lightning. I’ll also look at some of general manager Kyle Dubas’ priorities for the offseason. Who will be signed? Who will be leaving?
Finally, I’ll look at Toronto Marlies’ forward Curtis Douglas to assess his improvement and possible future within the organization. Today when head coach Sheldon Keefe, team president Brandan Shanahan, and Dubas spoke with the media, Douglas’ name was mentioned specifically as a possibility for the Maple Leafs’ roster somewhere in the future.
Item One: Lightning Coach Waiting for a Maple Leafs’ Roster Breakup
Not that it matters much to Maple Leafs’ fans, but there’s one person who’d vote NOT to break up the Maple Leafs’ roster. That’s Lightning head coach Jon Cooper. In his post-series media interviews, he was pretty clear about what he thought about the quality of the Maple Leafs’ roster.
If he were in charge, although the Maple Leafs lost in Game 7 of the first round of the playoffs (again), if this team were dismantled he believes Toronto fans would regret it. Cooper was quoted after the Game 7 win over the Maple Leafs:
“I’m not in that room. I coach the Tampa Bay Lightning. But I know some of their players. I’ve been behind the bench with Morgan Rielly. I’ve been behind the bench with Mitch Marner. I’ve been behind the bench with Auston Matthews. And if those guys became available, I would be first in line to put them on my team.”
Obviously, he didn’t go down the entire Maple Leafs’ lineup naming which players he’d keep or move. The answer was a quick response to a question. However, his logic was obvious; he likes the roster that’s been put together.
Item Two: Steven Stamkos on Jack Campbell
Cooper wasn’t the only representative of the Lightning team who weighed in. Toronto-area native Steven Stamkos, who played hockey with John Tavares growing up and is the Lightning captain, noted that Toronto is “a great hockey team” that has “all the pieces.”
Stamkos then added, “They’re a team that was one of the toughest series we’ve probably played in terms of they’ve got the star players, they’ve got the goaltender, solid defencemen, you got down the list and they’ve got everything.”
What was most interesting to me is that the first specific person on Stamkos’ list was the Maple Leafs’ goalie – Jack Campbell. Campbell has obviously earned the respect of his opponents.
Item Three: Is Signing Campbell, Dubas’ First Priority?
It would seem that because of (a) the skill and genuine appreciation of Campbell in the Toronto area and with his own teammates and (b) the fact that there are few viable goalie options on the open market this offseason, Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas’ first priority would be re-signing Campbell.
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There’s no doubt that Campbell deserves a significant raise from his current $1.65 million contract. The question is, where will it come from? Will the team have to move any of its players?
In addition, will there be enough salary-cap space to re-sign Mark Giordano? It seemed from the outside that Giordano enjoyed playing in his hometown of Toronto and might, at this stage of his career, be willing to sign a Jason Spezza-type contract. He’d likely be welcomed back if he were affordable. However, the franchise isn’t likely to get into a bidding war for his services.
Speaking of Spezza, is his playing career over? And, if it is, will he be hired in an off-ice role within the organization? From my perspective, he’s value-added to this team. During the media interviews today, Dubas said he’d be speaking with Spezza later this afternoon.
Item Four: Reviewing Curtis Douglas’ Season with the Marlies
Curtis Douglas is one of the most intriguing players in the Maple Leafs; organization. In an organization sans physical players, Douglas is a behemoth at 6-foot-9 and 238 pounds. In other words, Douglas is a giant.
If Douglas were ever to play an NHL game, he’d be the largest forward ever to play in the NHL. It’s hard to miss him on the ice. But, is he a good player?
During his 2021-22 season in the AHL, he started on the Toronto Marlies’ fourth line but got better as the season went along. Douglas ended the season by scoring 34 points in the 67 games he played. He’ll be a player to watch as next season goes on. From what Dubas said today, there’s a chance he’ll have a chance in training camp to make the team.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
It’s obvious there will be a concerted effort to re-sign Campbell as next season’s starting goalie. However, from the list of other players on the Maple Leafs’ roster, who does the organization feel are keys to their success in the future?
Ilya Mikheyev, Mark Giordano, Ilya Lybushkin, Ondrej Kase, Pierre Engvall, and Colin Blackwell will likely get offers from the organization. But has Mikheyev’s success this season played him out of the organization’s ability to pay him? It would seem he’d be highly prized by another organization.
A lot is up in the air for this team. It’s starting now.
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