The free-agent period offered a grim reality check to the Toronto Maple Leafs and its fans. Not one big-name signed, no hometown discounts were given, or team-friendly contracts were signed. As a result, several fan favourites are gone. Quite frankly, Leafs Nation took a few punches in the gut this offseason. In a recent edition of The Maple Leafs Lounge, the writers discussed which player departure disappointed the fanbase the most by leaving the team.
There is no doubt Zach Hyman will be difficult to replace. He is a top-line player who could mesh well with any line at any point in the game. The Maple Leafs hoped they found an adequate substitution in Nick Ritchie for far less. Hyman got a seven-year deal worth $38.5 from the Edmonton Oilers. At the same time, Ritchie signed with Toronto for $5 million over two years.
The on-ice statistics show similarities, and the player’s dimensions are comparable. However, Hyman had carved out a place with the team since his NHL debut with Toronto in 2015. As a fifth-round pick, we watched this Toronto-born kid use grit and relentless energy to outwork the star players. He also earned fans off the ice as a children’s book author. His fellow academic, the Old Prof, was sure Hyman would stay in Toronto. “When Hyman left, I took a spell check because you know I’ve been wrong a lot about what keeps players around,” the Prof wishes him well in Edmonton.
For five seasons, Frederik Andersen was in the net for the Maple Leafs. Correction, more like four-and-a-half. Last season was Andersen’s worst, not only his numbers but also his health as he spent months on the injury list. Now he has signed with the Carolina Hurricanes landing a whopping two-year, $9 million contract. When he came to Toronto in 2016, he was part of a significant rebuild. He was in the net as the team went from cellar-dwellers to contenders. Still, as the playoff disappointments piled on, he was often referred to as “Five-Hole Freddie” and drew a lot of criticism.
Because of how his time in Toronto ended, Andersen is the biggest disappointment of the offseason for THW writer Alex Hobson. “I’m going to miss Frederik Andersen the most,” said Hobson, “I really don’t like how his time in Toronto ended. I thought it was a pretty terrible way for him to go out.” Hobson admitted he was sure Andersen would be the goalie in Toronto for years to come.
You know the saying, hindsight is 20-20. Most fans and observers applauded when Toronto sent a first-round draft pick to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Nick Foligno. It was believed he was the missing piece who could push Toronto beyond the first round. Foligno, son of former Leaf Mike Foligno, showed up with his dad’s old hat from 1993. He smiled from ear to ear and said this was a dream come true to play for Toronto. But the dream was short-lived as he tallied four assists in seven regular-season games and one assist in the four playoff games.
However, this dream is now a nightmare as Foligno has signed with the rival Boston Bruins. During the show, I went on a bit of a tangent: “he kicks me in the teeth by signing with the Boston Bruins! Are you kidding me? I could’ve accepted if you signed with Columbus; that’s your team. I could’ve even accepted the Minnesota Wild to go play with your brother; sure, that would be cool. You went with Boston! Give me a break. I’m over him.”
Adding to the sting when these players left was watching their media conferences with their new teams. They all talked about joining a solid team that can win now. That was supposed to be the narrative around the Maple Leafs and why players would take less to play for this team. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. It has been a difficult couple of months for Leafs’ Nation. Unfortunately, the season can’t start soon enough to move forward and forget about those who left.
Kevin Armstrong is an award-winning journalist with more than two decades of experience. He’s been rink side for World Juniors, Memorial Cups, Calder Cups and Stanley Cups. Like many Canadian kids, his earliest memories include hockey. Kevin has spent countless hours in arenas throughout the country watching all levels of the game.