At the beginning of this last week, with the Toronto Maple Leafs’ regular season having fewer than 10 games remaining, I wrote a post looking back at this season to review who I believed were the three most surprising Maple Leafs’ players. Obviously, such a post is subjective. I expect other Maple Leafs’ fans would probably list other players who for them were as surprising as my list of three – Jason Spezza, T.J. Brodie, and Rasmus Sandin.
I’ve noted a few times in my posts how much I appreciate those regular readers who share their comments and insights about the topics I write about as I cover their team – even to correct me if I get something wrong (which I do). In that post about surprising Maple Leafs’ players, I invited readers to add their thoughts to my own.
Several accepted that invitation, for which I thank them. In this post, I’d like to share some of their additions. As a note, I’ve tried to ensure I have asked for permission to share and attribute their comments, and I appreciate the permission to share these thoughts. I also apologize in advance that I can’t use all the great insights that were shared.
If this works out ok, I’d love to do more of this in the future. [Again, I’d love to hear from readers about the idea.]
Other Surprising Maple Leafs’ Players for the 2020-21 Season
Readers Choice #1: Michael Hutchinson
THW Reader Canuckr09 mentioned goalie Michael Hutchinson as someone who should make the list of Maple Leafs’ surprises. BleedBlue added, “I don’t understand the Leafs’ hesitation with Hutch. He led the Avs to Game 7 last year. Dallas was scoring 5 goals a game until he stepped in. He’s at least a back-up, right?”
My Hutchinson Notes: Thanks for adding Hutchinson to the conversation. I’m a Hutchinson fan as much for his ability to persist as for his skill; however, I hadn’t thought of him when I wrote that first post on surprising players.
On the season, Hutchinson has played eight games with a record of 4-2-1 a goal, a goals-against-average of 2.42, and a save percentage of .919. Those are good numbers for a backup goalie, but they also suggest how much stronger the team’s defense is overall. His last game on April 4 was another solid start and perhaps his best game of the season; he made 32 saves in a win over the Calgary Flames.
Readers Choice #2: Alex Kerfoot
After adding to the comments on Hutchinson, BleedBlue added Kerfoot to the list of surprising Maple Leafs’ players. Specifically, BleedBlue noted that Kerfoot’s “PK duties and still a +3. A half a point a game with limited ice time. His speed and energy are impressive. I think his salary is money well spent and I’m glad we kept him.”
BleedBlue later suggested, “I believe he’s (Kerfoot) much better at wing than center.” Erictheterribke noted that “Kerfoot is a true grinder Both offence and defence, you always see him in the action.”
My Kerfoot Notes: Kerfoot is one of my favorite players on the team. However, he’s also one of the first players most say will be traded in the team’s constant struggle to free up salary-cap space. Although I understand that aspect of the business, I’d rather have him stay. I love his work ethic. Throughout his career, he’s consistently been just under a-point-every-two-game player so you know what you’re going to get with him.
Readers’ Choice #3: William Nylander
Long-time Maple Leafs’ fan Stan Smith added a number of his own choices for surprising players; however, he spent a good deal of time supporting William Nylander’s play as “a complete, pleasant surprise to me.”
Stan admitted that “It’s funny, if we would have done this a month ago, I wouldn’t have even thought of him.”
However, he added that “Willy has played the best, most complete, hockey this month that I have ever seen him play. I have stated a number of times that, to me, Nylander is a prettier Phil Kessel, with all the same strengths, and weaknesses. Great offensive skills, great shot, no clue, or desire, to play defensively without the puck.”
However, Stan adds “This last month, I have seen him block shots, outmuscle players in the corner for the puck, and have actually watched him intentionally skate behind both teams’ nets, something he rarely did before, especially his own net.”
Stan went on to note, “Saturday night was a prime example of that. On a play where Willy was the last man back. That’s right. Last man back. I can’t believe I am using those two things in the same sentence … not only did he strip the Jets’ player of the puck, but he then turned the play up ice with a nice pass to Sandin, who returned that with as equally a nice pass back, to create a 2 on 1, that Tavares finished with another nice pass from Willy.”
My Nylander notes: Although the 24-year-old Nylander only scored a single assist in the team’s two-game set against the Winnipeg Jets, prior to that he had four straight multi-point games, with a goal with seven assists. Nylander is an enigma and a bit polarizing – Maple Leafs’ fans love him, or they don’t. But his work ethic is reported to be solid.
Other Comments from THW Readers
There were a number of other comments from THW readers, and I’m sorry space doesn’t allow me to add more. Specifically, there seemed to be great support for Spezza as a solid contributor to the team. As well, there was interest in Sandin’s skill level and solid play.
Sandin specifically is a player THW readers seem to believe has a huge upside, and I’d love to share some of their thoughts on him in a later post. I trust I’ll hear more from readers whether adding their insights is a good idea. If so, I hope to share them more regularly.
As a writer and a Maple Leafs’ fan, thanks for taking time to read and to weigh into the conversations about the posts. I’m learning a lot from you.
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