Maple Leafs Need to Rest Simmonds Before Playoffs Push

Wayne Simmonds played his 1,000th regular-season game in the NHL this past Saturday night. He and Mark Giordano both played their 1,000th game on the same night. 

Wayne Simmonds’ Long and Successful Career

It has been a long and successful career for the “Wayne Train,” a Scarborough, Ontario, native, who started his junior career back in 2005 with the Brockville Braves of the Central Junior Hockey League. In his 1,000 NHL games, Simmonds scored 261 goals and added 259 assists for 521 points. He added eight goals and 22 points in 51 playoff games during his 18 year NHL career as well. 

Related: 3 Maple Leafs Who Probably Won’t Return Next Season

Simmonds’ best seasons came with the Philadelphia Flyers where he topped the 25-goal mark four times. He also had two thirty-goal, sixty-point seasons with the Flyers. 

Wayne Simmonds Flyers
Wayne Simmonds had some great seasons with the Flyers
(Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

On October 9th, 2020, the Toronto Maple Leafs signed Simmonds to a one-year $1.5 million deal. He scored seven goals, and nine points in 38 games played for the Maple Leafs that season. His play was limited by a freak broken wrist injury he suffered during a game against the Vancouver Canucks. This past offseason, the Maple Leafs extended Simmonds for two years at $900,000 a season. He’s played 53 of the Maple Leafs’ 55 games to this point of the season, scoring six goals and adding nine assists for 13 points.  

Reaching 1000 NHL Games Is a Great Milestone

Reaching 1,000 games is quite the milestone for an NHL player. Simmonds and Giordano became the 364th and 365th players to reach that milestone. NHL.com lists 7,623 total players who have played in the NHL since 1917. That means less than 5% of the total players have made it to that milestone.  

Related: Top 10 Weirdest Goalies in NHL History

What makes Simmonds’ achievement even more meaningful is the way he plays the game. By NHL standards he is not a big man. According to Pensionplanpuppets the average height and weight of an NHL player are 6-foot-1 and 204 pounds. Simmonds is listed at 6-foot-2 and 185 pounds.  

Wayne Simmonds Toronto Maple Leafs
Wayne Simmonds, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Simmonds plays a very physical game and has recorded 1,952 hits over his career. It’s rare for a player whose body has taken that much punishment to still be playing at the age of 33. That’s an accomplishment Simmonds should be proud of.

Now What for Wayne Simmonds?

Now that he has reached the 1,000 game plateau, what should the plan for Simmonds be in the games coming up? For the remainder of the regular season? And, for the playoffs? 

Sign up for our regular 'Maple Leafs Newsletter' for all the latest.

To be honest, by the eye test Simmonds has not seemed as effective lately. In fact, our readers seem to regularly note that neither he nor Jason Spezza is contributing much to the team. If we look at Simmonds’ production numbers this season, of the twelve forwards who have played the majority of games, Simmonds is twelfth in both goals with four and points with 13.  

Breaking Down Simmonds’ Season By the Numbers

If we break down this season into those games played in 2021 and those games played in 2022 since the calendar has turned things have gotten worse in terms of Simmonds’ production. 

Related: Maple Leafs Get Nothing But Positives by Re-Signing Simmonds

As of December 31, Simmonds had four goals and six assists (for ten points) and was plus-2 in 29 games played. Since January 1, his production has dropped to zero goals and three points, and he’s been a minus-6 in 24 games played. 

Looking at his five-on-five Goals-per Naturalstattrick, until December 31, he was on-ice for 2.93 Goals-For per 60 minutes played and 2.10 Goals-Against, for a plus 0.83 goals per 60 minutes played. Since January 1, Simmonds has been on ice for only 1.48 Goals-For per 60 minutes and 3.25 Goals-Against for a minus 1.78.  

Wayne Simmonds Toronto Maple Leafs
Wayne Simmonds, Toronto Maple Leafs Right Wing
(Photo by Steven Kingsman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

That’s a swing of 2.61 goals per 60 minutes played. Obviously, Simmonds can’t be blamed for those numbers himself and the team has played progressively poorer hockey as the season has moved on. Those numbers correspond with his own fall-off. Obviously, his numbers are heavily influenced by the players around him. 

However, for a team that’s trying to make life easier for its goalies, in the past two-plus months Simmonds’ performance on the ice has not helped in that area. 

Related: Toronto Maple Leafs: Revisiting the Nazem Kadri Trade

We also notice that Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe has cut Simmonds ice time from an average of 10:13 per game before January 1 to an average of 8:55 per game after the start of the new year. That brings to light the ice time versus performance argument. Does a player’s performance suffer because his ice time dwindles? Or, does his ice time fall because he’s not performing as well? 

What’s the Answer for Simmonds?

So what is the answer for Simmonds? What should the Maple Leafs do?

We believe two things are certain. First, it’s time to recognize that Simmonds has played over 1,000 games over two decades of NHL hockey. That’s been a lot of hard miles on a 33-year-old body. Second, when the playoffs come, a healthy, rested Simmonds could be a valuable asset when the games turn more physical. He can lift his own weight.

We aren’t sure what the situation is for Ondrej Kase and when he’ll be back. We’ve also liked what we’ve seen with Nick Robertson in the four games since he has been called up. Maybe it would be a good idea once Kase does come back to give Robertson more of a look and give Simmonds some rest.

We know that Simmonds hates not to play, but Keefe must focus on the big picture. With a heavy schedule coming, giving Simmonds more time off seems like a smart move. Certainly Simmonds would understand Keefe’s logic.

It will be interesting to see how Keefe handles Simmonds’ playing time down the stretch and into the playoffs. He could become a valuable playoff performer.

[Note: I want to thank long-time Maple Leafs’ fan Stan Smith for collaborating with me on this post. Stan’s Facebook profile can be found here.]