And this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I’ll take a look at three of the Maple Leafs players and the news surrounding them. First, I’ll take a look at Auston Matthews nomination for the Hart Trophy. Second, I’ll compare Jack Campbell’s postseason playoff series to his opponent’s at the other end of the rink — Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Third, I want to congratulate Michael Bunting for becoming a Calder Trophy nominee. Finally, I’ll say a thank you to Patrick Marleau for his continuing legacy with the Maple Leafs.
Item One: Auston Matthews Is Rewarded for His Great Season
The word came down yesterday that Auston Matthews is one of three finalists for the Hart Trophy. Congratulations to him for being recognized for having his stellar regular season.
Matthews was the first NHL player to reach the 60-goal milestone since Steven Stamkos did it during the 2011-12 season. Although he missed a large number of games throughout the season, Matthews also came in sixth in the NHL scoring race with 106 points in 73 games.
The other two finalists for the award are the Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid and the New York Rangers’ goalie Igor Shesterkin. It promises to be a close vote this season.
Item Two: Jack Campbell Is Holding His Own in the Net
When the postseason began, one area of relative weakness for the Maple Leafs seemed to be in goal. Although the Maple Leafs’ starting goalie Campbell has had a couple of really good seasons – albeit with some up and downs – he certainly does not bring the resume Vasilevskiy brings to the postseason.
The Lightning’s Vasilevskiy was named as the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as the MVP of the 2020-21 postseason last year and can absolutely shut the door on teams during the playoffs. However, Campbell has more than held his own in the net. In short, he has not been out-goalied.
At this point of the series, after five games neither starting goalie has completely shut the door on the opposition. Both have made great stops, and both have let in suspicious goals. As well, their statistical numbers are nothing to write home about. Perhaps that’s because they’re each facing really good teams. In fact, whichever team emerges victorious from this round will be a strong opponent for whomever they meet going forward.
Campbell has probably been the better of the two goalies, but that contest is close. To date, Campbell has registered a .895 save percentage and a 3.41 goals-against average for the Maple Leafs. His opponent at the other end of the ice has registered a .880 save percentage and a 3.65 goals-against average.
Item Three: Michael Bunting Is Finalist for the Calder “Trophy
Good news came yesterday when it was announced that Maple Leafs’ rookie forward Michael Bunting was nominated as one of three NHL players who could be voted as the NHL’s Rookie of the Year. The three nominees for the Calder Trophy include Bunting, the Anaheim Ducks center Trevor Zegras, and Detroit Red Wings defenseman Moritz Seider. The Calder Trophy is annually presented to the NHL’s rookie of the year.
Although Bunting is not likely to win the award – Seider is the likely winner – a case can be made for his deserving it. First, he led all rookies with 23 goals and 40 assists (for a total of 63 points). Second, he’s become part of a Maple Leafs offence that ranked second in the NHL with 315 goals.
Bunting seems to have two strikes against him. First, he’s older than the average rookie and only made the cutoff by two days. He turned 26 on September 17, 2021. Second, he plays on arguably the strongest line in the NHL with partners Matthews and Mitch Marner. Why that seems to be an issue, I don’t know. Bunting certainly adds value to that line.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
Obviously, the Maple Leafs have a tough game in Tampa tonight. If they are to be led by their first-line stars Matthews and Marner, one person who can take some pleasure in the play of those two young forwards is Patrick Marleau.
Marleau called it quits this past week. In his career, he played for 23 seasons and eventually broke Gordie Howe’s record for most games ever played in the NHL. However, his legacy with the Maple Leafs has been profound.
When he came to the team, he “adopted” two very young players in Matthews and Marner and made them part of his extended family. His mentorship was so profound on the two that, when Matthews was an All Star playing in San Jose, he took off his jersey to reveal a Marleau jersey to the delight of the Sharks’ crowd.
Thanks to Marleau for his on-going contribution to the success of this Maple Leafs’ team.
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