Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Giordano, Mrazek, Sateri & Bieber

Last night the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the New Jersey Devils by a score of 3-2. It was the first game for two newcomers from the Seattle Kraken, Mark Giordano and Colin Blackwell. The game was a tight five-on-five affair, but the Maple Leafs special teams rose up to beat the Devils. 

However, it wasn’t the special team’s play that one might expect. The power-play unit basically got nothing done, but the penalty-kill unit scored two goals – one by Ilya Mikheyev and the other by his third-line partner Pierre Engvall. The Engvall goal sealed the deal for the victory.

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In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll look at some of the news emerging from the game last night. However, I’ll also comment on some of the other news surrounding the recent trade deadline.

Item One: Head Coach Sheldon Keefe Appreciates Mark Giordano

One game was all it took apparently. In addition, we got a bit of an insight into Maple Leafs’ head coaches brain if we read between the lines of his post-game comments last night. It was Giordano’s first game for his hometown team after Sunday’s trade brought the 38-year-old veteran defenseman to Toronto along with feisty forward Colin Blackwell from the Seattle Kraken. 

Giordano played with Timothy Liljegren on the team’s third pairing and Blackwell skated with Jason Spezza and Wayne Simmonds on the team’s fourth line. 

Giordano reported that, before he suited up with the Maple Leafs – although it wasn’t in the traditional blue and white uniform he probably loved as a kid — that he had “felt good all day.” He remembered “coming here when I was a young guy and you had all the nerves.” But he apparently wasn’t nervous last night.

In fact, he also calmed down his head coach who said after the game that “My comfort level was high when he was out there. The puck got on his stick and things seem to settle down.”

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Keefe added, “You can just tell that he is a veteran. He knows how to play. Despite coming into new teammates, a new city, and a new system, he is just confident, moving pucks, defending, and getting in people’s way. I really liked his play tonight.”

Item Two: Keefe Challenges, and Mrazek Responds

Petr Mrazek had a needed bounce-back game. He got it. Mrazek made 20 saves in last night’s 3-2 win over the Devils, but (finally) he actually looked more comfortable doing it. It wasn’t a really busy night – especially at the start of the game; however, as coach Keefe noted, that made the game more difficult. 

Specifically, Keefe noted that: “It’s a bit of a shock to an established player that goes on waivers, and then when you clear it should be even more of a shock that you haven’t been nearly good enough.”

Then coach Keefe threw down the challenge: “It’s an opportunity for him to really get to work now, it is real and we need him to be better.”

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Was Mrazek’s game in response to coach Keefe’s challenge? That can’t really be known. However, it was a stronger game than Mrazek has been playing recently. The past four games he’s played have not been pretty. Mrazek gave up 17 goals during that four-game stretch and never really looked good. But he came through last night.

Prior to the game, Mrazek was put on waivers went unclaimed. In fact, the Maple Leafs went out and signed Finnish goalie Harri Sateri. Although Sateri was eventually claimed by the Arizona Coyotes, it had to be writing on the wall for Mrazek. 

The Maple Leafs have to hope that Mrazek is back. Until starting goalie Jack Campbell returns from his rib injury, Mrazek and rookie Erik Kallgren will likely continue to share the goalie work.

Item Three: Do Other Teams Target Maple Leafs’ Waiver-Wire Players?

Interestingly, Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas went out just before the trade deadline and signed a goalie in Harri Sateri. The remainder of the NHL’s 31 other teams could have done that, but didn’t. However, when the Maple Leafs put him on waivers so they could move him onto their roster, he was claimed by the Arizona Coyotes. 

Harri Sateri Grand Rapids Griffins
Harri Sateri, when he played for the Grand Rapids Griffins
(Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Also interestingly, it was reported that a least five other NHL teams placed a waiver claim on Sateri. Also interestingly, in a recent podcast, Steve Dangle reported that a hockey insider told him that other NHL teams tend to place waiver claims on players the Maple Leafs put up – just because it’s the Maple Leafs. 

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When Dubas signed Sateri, it was a surprise to me. I thought it was a great move; obviously, other teams thought so too. The Maple Leafs general manager had noted that the Maple Leafs have a large number of their players who are lost on waivers. While that might be that other NHL teams know that the Maple Leafs’ scouting staff is strong and watch what they do, there’s been a hint that perhaps the Maple Leafs are a targeted team that other NHL teams might raid. 

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs? 

It was interesting to me that Giordano made his Toronto debut not in the team’s traditional blue and white uniform but in the team’s new black “Next-Gen” uniform that was created in a collaboration with Justin Bieber. True, Bieber is a great young Canadian pop star and one of the team’s greatest fans; however, it seemed odd to me that it was Giordano’s first uniform. 

Still, it’s a really good-looking uniform. Also interesting, it  is the first reversible sweater worn by any professional in North America. It is also the 15th alternate set of threads in club history. Bieber was at the game. 

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