Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Kase, Robertson, Woll & Keefe’s Strategy

Already during the 2021-22 regular season, although only four games have been played, it’s been a tough start to the season for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Not only did the team play its first three without its star center Auston Matthews; but, during the second period of his first game, goalie 1B Peter Mrazek was injured and will be out for two weeks.

Toronto Maple Leafs Auston Matthews
Toronto Maple Leafs Auston Matthews (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young)

In addition, the Maple Leafs seem to be facing absolutely hot goalie play during the season. It’s hard to blame the Maple Leafs for the 2-1 overtime loss to the New York Rangers on Monday night. They took it to the Rangers all night, but couldn’t beat young Rangers’ goalie Igor Shesterkin. He faced 41 shots and stopped all but one – newcomer Michael Bunting’s second goal of the season.

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As the team readies to play the San Jose Sharks on Friday night, I’ll try to keep Maple Leafs’ fans up-to-date about news and rumors emerging from the team and the organization.

Item One: Ondrej Kase Is Nursing an Injury

Ondrej Kase missed practice on Tuesday after blocking a shot during Monday’s Rangers’ game. The word was that Kase has undergone testing, but so far I haven’t heard if he’ll miss a game with this injury. Fortunately, the Maple Leafs don’t suit up until Friday; so, if he is injured he has a few days to heal.

The Czech winger is playing well but seems about as snake bit as many other Maple Leafs’ players. The team is used to scoring more goals, and Kase is among those still searching. He’s fired 11 shots during the four games he’s played this season, but he’s still seeking his first goal. 

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Michael Amadio took his spot on the third line in practice. That seems to suggest that Kase’s expected back before the next game. If the medical staff believed he’d be out for a while, they would have moved someone up from the team’s fourth line, and put Amadio into the fourth-line center position.  

Item Two: Nick Robertson Broke His Leg During Sunday’s AHL Game

The news about Nick Robertson is not only unfortunate, but it’s also just plain bad luck for the youngster. Season after season, it just seems to be one thing after another. The last incident happened during Sunday’s AHL Toronto Marlies’ game against the Manitoba Moose when Robertson was in a collision behind the net and had to leave the game. 

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The bad news is that Robertson would miss a minimum of 10 weeks with a “non-displaced fracture of his right fibula.” That means that he broke his leg, but the bone remains aligned. Those kinds of breaks usually happen in young children and could have been as much from a twist as a trauma (hit). It might have been worse, actually. He doesn’t need surgery.

As Keefe noted when speaking to the media, Robertson has come back before and, as his head coach believes, “he’ll bounce back” again. What a tough start for Robertson’s professional hockey career. It looks as if Robertson won’t play again until the new calendar year. 

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Item Three: Joseph Woll Was Re-assigned to the AHL’s Toronto Marlies

Joseph Woll, the 23-year-old goalie who signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Maple Leafs in July and was injured in late September during a team practice, was re-assigned to AHL’s Marlies on Monday. Woll had been scheduled to play against the Montreal Canadiens during the first preseason game but didn’t dress. 

Joseph Woll Toronto Maple Leafs
Joseph Woll, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Until this week, he had been on the non-roster injured reserve and his move to the AHL suggests that he’s healthy enough to play sometime soon for the Marlies. Last season, Woll had a goals-against-average of 3.54 and a save percentage of .892 in 15 games at the AHL level. He hasn’t yet made an NHL start and likely won’t this season. 

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

The Maple Leafs will play the Sharks on the second game of a back-to-back on Friday. However, they’ll travel to Pittsburgh to face a rested Penguins team on Saturday. In the old days, when Mike Babcock was the head coach, this would be a game he would give to Michael Hutchinson because he knew it would be difficult to win. 

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I wonder if, when coach Keefe looks at the schedule, he would agree with Babcock or wonder if he might employ a different strategy. Logic suggests the team might a better chance to win both games if Keefe plays Hutchison in the first game and then goes to starter Jack Campbell against the Penguins. Obviously, I’m not a coach; but, my logic suggests that, because Campbell’s the better goalie, it might offer the team a better chance to win both games.

For sure, it will be good to see the Maple Leafs back on the ice again on Friday. I can only imagine that, from the player’s perspective, the game against the Rangers was so frustrating that they can’t wait to get into a game again.

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