Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Marner-Muzzin Run-In, W/L Pattern & More

As the Toronto Maple Leafs prepare to meet the Minnesota Wild tonight in the twin cities, in this edition of Maple Leafs News & Rumors I’ll take a look at some of the news emerging from the team.

Related: Maple Leafs’ 2020-21 Season Saw a Mitch Marner Transformation

I’ll also share a couple of insights from readers about the team. I’ve noted often that I appreciate the insights and additions that readers bring to the posts I write and thought it would be a good day to share some of them. Thanks for these additions. 

Item One: An Interesting Pattern: Are the Maple Leafs Due for a Loss?

There’s been a pattern of sorts repeating itself with the team. (Aside: When I wrote that phrase just now “a pattern repeating itself,” I realized it was such bad writing that I had to leave it in for readers. That’s what patterns do, repeat themselves – right? Sorry.) My often writing collaborator Stan Smith emailed me this morning to share it. He’s right, and I found it interesting. 

As Stan notes, this curious pattern makes him wonder if the Maple Leafs are due to lose tonight. 

On October 25, the Maple Leafs lost to the Carolina Hurricanes 4-1. The team then won five games in a row against the Chicago Blackhawks, the Detroit Red Wings, the Vegas Golden Knights, the Tampa Bay Lightning, and the Boston Bruins.

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On November 8, the Maple Leafs lost 5-1 to the Los Angeles Kings. Then they won five in a row against the Philadelphia Flyers, the Calgary Flames, the Buffalo Sabres, the Nashville Predators, and the New York Rangers.

On November 20, the Maple Leafs lost 2-0 to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Then they won five more in succession over the New York Islanders, the Kings, the San Jose Sharks, the Anaheim Ducks, and the Colorado Avalanche.

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Tonight they play Minnesota. Hmmm. And, Stan asks: “Do they keep the pattern, or do they break it?”

Item Two: Marner and Muzzin Have a Run-In(to)

Late yesterday, TSN’s Mark Masters reported that Mitch Marner left Friday’s practice early after he had a collision and ensuing “exchange” with teammate Jake Muzzin near Joseph Woll’s goal crease.

Woll, who was a close witness, reported that the collision was “scary.”

Woll added that he “just hope(s) everyone’s OK. Two very important players on our team and Mitchy looks like he took the worse of it so I hope he’s good. He’s a battler.”

Masters reported that Marner slowly got to his feet, consulted with the Maple Leafs’ assistant athletic therapist Jon Geller at the bench, and then went to the locker room. 

Clearly, Marner was upset about what happened. Both Marner and Muzzin had a semi-heated (it was more like an animated conversation than a fight, and from Masters’ tweeted video it seemed over quickly). 

After practice, head coach Sheldon Keefe was asked both about Marner’s injury status and about any fallout from the exchange between the two teammates. Keefe seemed to play down both. 

Keefe called Marner’s trip to the locker “precautionary” and seemed un-flapped by potential fallout. He noted that “there was a little bit of an exchange right before I came out here, but especially with those two guys, I don’t worry about that kind of stuff at all.’

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Perhaps from the perspective of a former player himself, he added: “Things happen out there, whether it is in practice or games. Our team is really close and that kind of stuff will be shaken off really quickly.”

In the end, Keefe noted that “We’ll see how he is in the morning. It’s not looking like anything serious at this point. He’s going to travel and prepare to play.”

Mitch Marner Toronto Maple Leafs
Mitch Marner, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The last news I found before publication was that Marner traveled with the team and his status would be a game-time decision.

Item Three: Reader Appreciates the Team’s Solid Defense

As I’ve noted several times, I appreciate what readers add to the “Conversation” section after they read these posts. In a recent post where I was writing about the team’s improved defense, reader W. J. Bignell added that the team was playing well defensively. 

“Currently, the Leafs sit third in the NHL for goals against; four more than Calgary and two more than Carolina – having played two more games than the Hurricanes. I’d say their defense is looking pretty darn good.”

Thanks for the addition.

Item Four: Maple Leafs Leadership Coming of Age

Another reader (gcmgome) noted that Maple Leafs’ fans are “seeing both a general manager and a head coach coming of age. Sheldon Keefe has impressed me this season with how he deploys his troops and his willingness to experiment with line combinations and D pairings.”

gcmgome added, “Where it could be argued he (Keefe) was out-coached during last season’s playoffs, I have yet to see that happen so far this season.”

Sheldon Keefe Toronto Maple Leafs
Sheldon Keefe, head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Speaking about the Maple Leafs’ general manager, gcmgome noted, “As far as Kyle Dubas maturing as a GM, it was not obvious when he was going through a flurry of signing activity during this past off-season. It seemed like a confusing scattergun approach to the fanbase. It wasn’t until the NHL and AHL seasons had begun that the overall organizational picture became clear. In just the past while, I have begun to realize that this team has competent injury call-ups at all positions in the farm system. In terms of NHL experienced and talented depth options, this is the best the Leafs have had in recent memory.”

Thanks for those additional insights.

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

There’s no doubt that this two-game, back-to-back road trip will be difficult. By tonight, Maple Leafs’ fans will see if the team can extend its winning streak to six games and also set a franchise record for eight-straight road wins. That’s heady stuff for a franchise that’s been around as long as the Maple Leafs have. 

Related: Maple Leafs’ Biggest Problem Is Not the Core Four

Personally, I’m hoping Nick Ritchie will score a couple before the team returns home to play the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday.

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