In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll share some of the news that’s emerging from the team including notes from last night’s 5-4 Maple Leafs’ victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Second, and of real interest to me, is the status of veteran forward Jason Spezza. Spezza will appeal the six-game suspension he received from George Parros, head of the NHL’s Department of Player Safety. If my guess is correct, there’s a chance Spezza’s suspension might be shortened – but that’s just speculation.
Item One: Jason Spezza Suspended Six Games
Yesterday, the official ruling came down and Jason Spezza was suspended for six games for his hit on Neal Pionk as part of a game that got completely out-of-hand Sunday against the Winnipeg Jets. Because Spezza had an in-person hearing, he didn’t dress for the Maple Leafs’ game against the Blue Jackets. That counts as one of the games suspended.
If his six-game suspension sticks, Spezza won’t be eligible to play again for the Maple Leafs until a week before Boxing Day (December 19th vs. the Seattle Kraken). During Spezza’s Hall of Fame NHL career, the 38-year-old has never missed a game because of a suspension. Given that Pionk was only suspended for two games, I was surprised how long his suspension was.
Reports from Elliotte Friedman are that Spezza will appeal the six games. The first appeal will be made to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman; but, if Spezza isn’t satisfied with the ruling, an independent arbitrator would have the final say on the matter. I hope he pushes it.
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Although I have not heard specifically, the suspension was probably handed down by George Parros who serves as the head of the NHL’s Department of Player Safety. Not that Parros will have a say in the appeal process, but it’s an interesting situation. Hockey fans will recall that, when Parros was an NHL player himself (he played on the Anaheim Ducks team that won the 2007 Stanley Cup), he was an enforcer. During his NHL career, he collected 1092 penalty minutes in 474 NHL games.
However, there’s an interesting backstory for Parros. He played four years at Princeton University and was named team captain during his senior season in 2002–03. As a student at Princeton, Parros was an economics major (Maple Leafs’ prospect Alex Steeves, who made his NHL debut last night, was a business and accounting major at Notre Dame). In 2010, Parros was named the fourth-smartest athlete in sports by the Sporting News.
Here’s wondering if Parros gave Spezza the six-game suspension for two reasons: first, it acts as a deterrent; but, second, it’s a large enough suspension that Spezza could appeal. Given what we know about the entire context of the event, would anyone be surprised if Spezza’s suspension weren’t reduced to three games?
Item Two: Shooting Star Auston Matthews Just Keeps Scoring Goals
Suddenly, if fans look at the NHL statistical leaders, Auston Matthews’ name has popped up on the list. He’s now tied for third in NHL goals. The Edmonton Oilers’ Leon Draisaitl is on top with 21 goals; the Washington Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin is second with 20 goals; and, in third place – other than Matthews – are New York Rangers’ Chris Kreider and Calgary Flames’ Andrew Mangiapane.
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Last night Matthews collected three points by scoring two goals himself and adding a power-play assist on William Nylander’s goal. That’s seven straight games with a goal for the Arizona native. Even more impressive, Matthews has had multiple points in four games over the last seven. As alluded to in the first paragraph of this item, Matthews started the season so slowly after coming back late from surgery that smart money wouldn’t have bet on him to repeat as the Rocket Richard winner.
That’s changed. Matthews’ hot streak now has him at 17 goals and 11 assists (for 28 points) in 24 games on the season. What’s even more interesting is that, with partner Mitch Marner out, Matthews is finding chemistry with Michael Bunting (who fed Matthews a great through-the-legs pass for a tip-in). Surprisingly, during Matthews’ seven-game bonanza, his second goal of last night’s game was his first game-winning goal of the streak.
Item Three: Jack Campbell’s Save Percentage is Dropping, Still He’s Winning
Last night, starting goalie Jack Campbell stopped “only” 28-of-32 shots in the 5-4 victory. But, those numbers are deceiving. Campbell was great most of the night, and the third-period pushback by the Blue Jackets cost the team nothing except their head coach’s ire.
Given that the Maple Leafs pushed the lead to 5-1, the game never seemed in doubt. In fact, two Columbus’ goals came in the last five minutes of the game – one with only a second left on the game clock.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
Campbell’s been great this entire season and has given up two or fewer goals in all but six of the 21 games he’s played thus far. However, recently his numbers have been sliding. He’s now given up at least three goals in each of his last three games. He’ll need to be better on Thursday night, a game I’ll assume he’ll start, against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Currently, the Lightning team has 36 points (to the Maple Leafs and the Florida Panthers 38 points), but Tampa Bay also has two games in hand over Toronto. A win against the Lightning would be nice.
Can Nick Ritchie start his own goal-scoring streak? Would be nice.
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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