Jake Muzzin’s Health Is Key to Maple Leafs’ Success

Jake Muzzin left the ice during the Toronto Maple Leafs’ game against the Washington Capitals after a controversial hit from Tom Wilson. The hit caught Muzzin in the leg after he had made a pass and he did not return to the game. At the time of this writing there is no timeline for a return and that should worry the Maple Leafs and their fans.

Muzzin’s Success and Injury

Through his first 14 games of the season, Muzzin has recorded three goals and nine assists. This puts him in second in scoring among defencemen on the team. Muzzin’s production has been a great asset for the struggling Maple Leafs thus far this season and if he misses an extended period of time he will be greatly missed.

Toronto Maple Leafs Jake Muzzin
Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Muzzin (Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports)

Muzzin has been the Maple Leafs best defensive defenceman this season. While Morgan Rielly has more points, Muzzin has been the team’s most (and at times only) reliable force on defence. On more than one occasion, he has been the only blueliner who looks like they are making an effort in his own end. During the Maple Leafs’ game against the San Jose Sharks, Muzzin pulled the team to their eventual 4-1 victory.

The Maple Leafs defence has been a point of weakness for much of this decade and that has included this season as well. The top three defencemen on the team are Muzzin, Rielly and Tyson Barrie. After those three, there is a steep drop to the likes of Cody Ceci and Martin Marincin. For Toronto’s defence to be able to sustain itself with any success, Muzzin needs to stay healthy.

Morgan Rielly, Toronto Maple Leafs
Morgan Rielly (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

According to head coach Mike Babcock, Muzzin suffered a charley horse on the hit from Wilson. Undoubtedly more severe than when our elementary school friends gave us a charley horse as kids, it would appear that Muzzin dodged a bullet by not getting hurt worse. With no broken bones and no torn muscles, it would appear that he should be able to return sooner rather than later. The human body is a curious thing but the news could have been worse considering the Maple Leafs’ star blueliner.

Toronto has a long season ahead and they have not started their campaign firing on all cylinders either. For the team to have the best chance to succeed, their top players need to remain healthy. If the first 14 games of the season have shown anything it is that Muzzin is definitely one of Toronto’s top players. Without him, the team is much weaker defensively and they lose the production he brings from the point. Long story short, Maple Leafs fans should be hoping for a speedy recovery.

The Benefit of a Proper Start

When Muzzin was traded to Toronto by the Los Angeles Kings last season, there were mixed feelings and positive results. Some people (most notably Babcock) expressed displeasure that he was not a right-handed shot while others were just happy that the team was able to get help on defence without giving up a roster player. Amidst the reactions on both sides, there was Muzzin playing hockey.

Jake Muzzin
Jake Muzzin as a member of the Los Angeles Kings (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Muzzin was able to bring his experience to the struggling Leafs defence and the team benefitted from his presence. For the first few games, however, it appeared as if he was a step off. It is to be expected as changing to a new system and a new team shouldn’t be expected to be a seamless transition and he quickly found his place on the team.

Now having the benefit of a full training camp with the Maple Leafs and more time to get fully acclimated to the Leafs’ system, Muzzin is showing just how valuable he is to the team. There is no feeling-out process this season, he just has to hit the ice and play. So far, he has done a marvellous job. It is similar to how William Nylander has experienced success so far this season due in large part to getting in a full preseason and training camp with the team. If Muzzin is able to return quickly and pick up where he left off, there is no telling just how much of an asset he can be to this team in 2019-20.