In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I take a look at news that Auston Matthews just had wrist surgery yesterday. I’ll also preview the new Amazon Prime series about the Maple Leafs 2020-21 season, and I’ll look at a different side of Kyle Dubas than we’ve been seeing over the past few seasons.
Item One: Auston Matthews Undergoes Wrist Surgery
On Friday, the Toronto Maple Leafs announced that first-line center Auston Matthews had undergone successful wrist surgery. Although there’s been a lot of reporting, there’s not much news about the actual surgery. For example, we don’t know if it was the wonky wrist that kept him out of games last season or a different injury. I’d also like to know if there’s any connection with this wrist injury and his sudden drop in goal-scoring during the playoffs.
What we do know from the first reports is that Matthews had been engaged in on-ice preseason training and was experiencing discomfort. As a result, he spoke with the team’s doctors; and, after consultation those doctors recommended surgery. Apparently, that happened quite quickly so that Matthews wouldn’t miss much of the training camp or the regular season.
Apparently, Matthews’ recovery time and rehab will be just over six weeks. That means he likely won’t be able to start the Maple Leafs’ training camp on time. However, if everything goes as planned, he’ll be ready for the start of the regular season that starts with a game on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021, at home against the Montreal Canadiens. It will be the 104th home opener in franchise history. Amazing!
When looking back at Matthews’ season, he missed games early and late. At the start of the season, he was on such a goal-scoring tear that he was being tracked for 50 goals in 50 games. Then, it was reported that he was having “issues” with his left wrist early in the season. In late February, he jammed his right wrist when hitting the boards. The club had hoped that injury would heal on its own.
Matthews then missed sporadic games and had an extended stretch of not scoring for (if I recall correctly) about 10 of 13 games during the middle of the season. He came back to score 20 goals in his final 22 games of the season, but during the playoff series he wasn’t able to score as he had during the regular season. Still, he led the NHL with 41 goals last season and has totalled 199 goals in his 334 NHL regular-season games.
Was John Tavares not the only Maple Leafs’ forward who was injured during the playoffs?
Item Two: Amazon Prime’s “All or Nothing: Maple Leafs”
Early last season, there was news that a documentary crew would follow the Maple Leafs around during the season as a way to chronicle the team’s pandemic-shortened season and what was expected to be the team’s rise to the top of the newly-created NHL North Division. Obviously, Maple Leafs’ fans know how that story ends and might not be interested in reliving those disappointing memories.
However, for those who do – and count me as one of them, five episodes of the series will become available on Friday, Oct. 1st. The episodes will be narrated by lifelong Maple Leafs’ fan actor and comedian Will Arnett, who’s best known for his role in the television series Arrested Development.
The five-episode series is titled “All or Nothing: Toronto Maple Leafs” and has been produced by Amazon Studios and NHL Original Productions and Cream Films. It will be the first Canadian Amazon Original series to be shown. It’s a behind-the-scenes look at how the organization operated during the 2020-21 season.
Here’s a look at the trailer that has been released:
Inside that trailer is a very short clip of Maple Leafs’ general manager looking angry as he notes, “My patience is running thin.” That short clip reminded me of a “new” side of Dubas we saw recently with his engagement with Edmonton Oilers’ general manager Ken Holland about Zach Hyman’s signing, which I’ll talk about next.
That alone might make it worth watching.
Item Three: Kyle Dubas Is Showing an Angry Side
Recently Maple Leafs fans caught a glimpse of a different side of the seemingly intelligent but nice-guy Dubas. Obviously, if you’ve read my posts over the seasons, you’ll know that I’m both a Dubas and a Brendan Shanahan fan. Despite the fact that the team hasn’t yet won a first-round playoff series, my own background suggests the organization is doing things the right way and that their process is logical.
I also know that stance puts me at odds with many Maple Leafs’ fans who are THW readers and whose voices and insights I appreciate. Friends don’t have to agree. And I know many of my friends find Dubas a polarizing figure.
Still, I was surprised by his dealings with Holland and the Oilers over the Hyman signing. There was only one way to describe what we’re seeing right now. Dubas was angry, which I understand but wasn’t used to.
I get it. If one of my core players like Zach Hyman were leaving, I’d be upset as well. And I certainly wouldn’t go out of my way to help the team that “stole” him from my team’s roster. So when Holland wanted the Maple Leafs to do the Oilers a favor by taking a low-round draft choice so they could extend Hyman’s signing to save close to $400,000 a season on an eight-year deal rather than a seven-year deal, I might show attitude as well.
Dubas made it clear that the Maple Leafs wouldn’t trade Hyman to the Oilers unless they got a good offer; and, they didn’t. Hyman still signed with Edmonton, but the Maple Leafs didn’t get a draft choice. But, the contract was for seven rather than eight years.
Dubas, who has been struggling with salary-cap woes since he signed all of John Tavares, William Nylander, Auston Matthews, and Mitch Marner, announced: “I know that there’s a narrative that we should just get something, but you’re saving a team significant dollars on the salary cap [with that 8th year]. That comes with a cost, and we’re not going to bend on that.”
In the end, he didn’t bend. Going back to the Amazon Prime series on the Maple Leafs’ 2020-21 season, it makes me want to watch it – even if I know the ending already.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
I keep thinking of the lower-round draft choices Dubas and the Maple Leafs have been choosing; and, the name Luc Robitaille keeps coming to my mind. One of these days, the organization is going to hit a home run with their diligence in choosing wisely in the lower rounds.
Robitaille was drafted in the ninth round (171st overall) of the 1984 NHL Entry Draft and ended his 20-year NHL career by scoring 668 goals. That included 45 goals as a rookie.
That’s one reason I’m looking forward to seeing some of the young draft choices the Maple Leafs have made.
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