In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I’ll take a look at some of the news emerging from the team. First, I’ll take a look at newly-signed defenseman Mark Giordano and share one of the reasons he said he stayed with the Maple Leafs rather than look anywhere else for hockey employment.
Second, I’ll look at the possibility of young Nick Robertson making the Maple Leafs’ roster out of training camp this fall. Finally, I’ll look at two former Maple Leafs’ players who’ll soon meet in the Western Conference Final series.
Item #1: Mark Giordano Thinks Coach Sheldon Keefe Is Solid
I’m not certain how hard Maple Leafs’ fans take their own personal losing; however, they sure take it personally when their team loses. That’s been the case (again) this postseason with their Maple Leafs. Once again their team was eliminated in the first round and it doesn’t sit well.
Obviously, two central members of the Maple Leafs’ management have received the bulk of the criticism. Those two are Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas and head coach Sheldon Keefe.
In my reading, most fans really believe Dubas should be the first one out the door. However, because they see Dubas and Keefe as joined at the hip, they don’t think Keefe should be far behind Dubas when he leaves.
As a result, it was interesting to hear what a successful player and long-time veteran had to say about Keefe as a coach. That veteran was Mark Giordano, and he made it quite clear what he thought. Specifically, he reported that his assessment of coach Keith was one reason he stayed in Toronto.
The truth is that Giordano thinks very highly of head coach Sheldon Keefe. Giordano noted that “Being here for almost 30 games (27 in total), his bench management, the way he sees the game, I agree with a lot of his theories on the game, the way he sees it from the bench and the way he sees it in video sessions.” (from “Mark Giordano sees coach Sheldon Keefe as key Maple Leafs’ asset moving forward,” Terry Koshan, Toronto Sun, 24/05/2022)
Giordano’s take on Keefe was a tipping point that helped convince him to re-sign with the Maple Leafs after the team acquired him from Seattle. Last week, Giordano signed a two-year, $1.6 million extension with the Maple Leafs.
Item #2: It Next Season Nick Robertson’s Time to Move Up?
After a devastating injury early in the 2021-22 season, Nick Robertson came back to the Toronto Marlies and put together a solid rest of the season. Over 28 games, Robertson was a point-a-game player with 16 goals and 12 assists. With the potential of quite a few moves from the Maple Leafs’ roster, it’s likely Robertson will get a serious look during training camp this summer.
It probably seems as if Robertson’s been around forever, but in reality he’s just 20 years of age. If he can stay healthy, he’d have a chance to pull his skillset together to benefit the Maple Leafs next season. There’s little argument about either his skills or his drive, he just needs to play healthy.
If Ilya Mikheyev moves on, which seems to be the consensus of outsiders, Robertson will likely be given a solid chance to see if he can handle a top-six role on the team. Marlies’ coach Greg Moore noted that Robertson had improved in many areas.
Moore noted, “One thing he really elevated was his shot selection” and that Robertson was “a lot more selective in getting into the right areas, possessing the puck or extending the possession to get those better looks, to get those higher quality chances.” (from “The Leafs are going to need help from within. Here are the candidates,” Kevin McGran, Toronto Star, 25/05/2022).
What’s Next for the (Ex)Maple Leafs?
Nazem Kadri reluctantly moved to the Colorado Avalanche on July 1, 2019. However, since he’s been there, he’s become part of a strong and maturing team. That team is now contending for the Stanley Cup and will meet the Edmonton Oilers in the Western Conference Final starting on May 31.
Not only has his team been growing in its strength, Kadri’s been improving as a player. Kadri had a career season in 2021-22 by scoring 28 goals and adding 59 assists (for 87 points) in 71 games. He’d never before had a season where he’d been a point-a-game player, but he blew that out of the water this season. In addition, his 59 assists were almost double the best performance he’s ever had before – that was his 30 assists in 2013-14.
In the upcoming Western Final, he’ll meet former teammate Zach Hyman. Hyman signed with the Oilers during the offseason. During his postseason play, Hyman has shown why the Oilers paid him well to join the team.
Hyman’s been hard to miss during the postseason. He’s the personification of work ethic in motion. No one is better at puck-battling, and he’ll play any kind of a game the opposition allows. He also shown up on the score sheet night regularly.
In the Game 5 clincher for the Oilers, Hyman scored a goal and two assists in the overtime win. He’s been a buzzsaw. In fact, when the Oilers fell behind by two goals, Oilers’ coach Jay Woodcroft switched the energetic Hyman from the second line to the first line at the start of the second period. By the end of that period, the Oilers had scored four goals to tie the game.
Both Kadri and Hyman have been on the scoresheet throughout the postseason. The 29-year-old Hyman has eight goals and four assists (for 12 points in 12 games). The 31-year-old Kadri scored a hat trick in Game 4 of the series with the St. Louis Blues that the Avalanche ended last night. He’s scored five goals and added five assists (for 10 points) in eight postseason games.
Both ex-Maple Leafs are primed for the finals. It should be good fun for Maple Leafs’ fans to watch these former Toronto players contest.
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