In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I’ll take a look at what news is happening within the Maple Leafs’ organization. First, I’ll take a look at Mitch Marner’s recent scary experience having his car stolen at gunpoint. Second, I’ll comment on Jason Spezza’s status with the Maple Leafs. Does the team want him back; and, if so, in what capacity?
Third, I’ll take a look at what might happen with defenseman Mark Giordano. Will he be back? Finally, I’ll take a look at what moves Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas might make during the offseason. I have an inkling these moves might be surprising and a bit radical.
Item One: Mitch Marner Thanks Fans and Teammates
This past Monday night, Mitch Marner was the victim of a car-jacking (at gunpoint) when his Range Rover was stolen from a parking lot where he was attending a movie. [Having been present at the holdup (with sawed-off shotguns) when I was about Marner’s age, I recall how scary the situation was.] On Wednesday, Marner sent out a thank you to everyone for their support.
Marner tweeted out this message: “To all the fans, my friends and teammates, and the entire Maple Leafs’ organization – thank you for all your positive messages over the last few days.”
Marner added: “The overwhelming support I’ve felt from the Toronto community has been unbelievable. I’d also like to thank Toronto Police Services for all their hard work in the ongoing investigation. It was a scary situation to be in, but we’re safe and doing well. Thank you all – your support has meant the world to us.”
Item Two: What Will Happen with Jason Spezza Next Season?
Last season, when Jason Spezza was placed on waivers, he released a statement that he’d retire if he were picked up by another team. He hasn’t changed his mind. This week, he also noted that he wasn’t interested in playing for any team but the Maple Leafs.
Related: Bringing Back NHL Arena Nicknames
Last season, Spezza scored 12 goals and added 13 assists (for 25 points) in 71 games. To be honest, I’m not sure the Maple Leafs will offer him another contract even at the league minimum. It isn’t his age as much as the organization might have other prospects and players it wants to bring onto the roster.
There’s no doubt that Spezza adds value to the team in a myriad of ways. He can still play well, and his on-ice and off-ice mentorship with younger players is almost legendary. He’ll soon celebrate his 39th birthday, and he seemed to be a healthy scratch as often as he played during the final stages of the Maple Leafs’ season.
His status intrigues me, and other Maple Leafs’ writers also must be interested as well. At the media interviews, questions were addressed to Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas about Spezza’s future.
Dubas responded: “It’s hard to really, sitting here, fully describe the impact that (Spezza) has had on the team positively. Obviously, his contributions to the roster, but in the locker room, in the summer, the time he puts in with every single young player from the day he’s arrived, he’s a special person. So I think there would probably be 31 teams other than us that would have an interest in having him be a part of it in some way.”
Item Three: Item Four: Where Will Mark Giordano Land?
When Mark Giordano came to the Maple Leafs at the trade deadline (with Colin Blackwell), it was the best trade deadline deal the Maple Leafs have made since I’ve been covering the team. It’s not that the Maple Leafs weren’t playing well; it’s just that they played better after Giordano landed with the team.
The team’s record over Giordano’s first seven games was 6-1 and in the 20 regular-season games he played with the Blue and White, the team went 15-5. Giordano scored 12 points in those 20 games, but that wasn’t the extent of his value. Similar to Spezza, Giordano also had a positive impact on the team’s younger defensemen. Specifically, Timothy Liljegren played his best stretch of games while paired with Giordano. In addition, Justin Holl’s body of work improved when he was paired with Giordano.
But, can the Maple Leafs sign Giordano? Surely they’ll discuss a new contract with him. From Giordano’s perspective, I would think there are three considerations. First, is salary; second is whether playing at home in Toronto holds significant appeal. Third, is whether Giordano believes the Maple Leafs are on the right path toward a Stanley Cup.
Giordano has made no bones about hoping to play a couple more seasons. He helped solidify the rear guard for the team. Could he be part of the team’s future? We’ll soon see. I would predict he’ll stay.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
What general manager Dubas does this offseason will be interesting. I have a feeling that, despite all the talk in the media interviews, he’ll do something unexpected and “big.”
This is the last year of Dubas’ contract. He isn’t afraid of losing his job because he knows he’d find another in a heartbeat. Dubas hasn’t won the big one yet, but he’s a master craftsman at building a team.
Who will he find and sign this offseason? Who will he move out and move in? Expect something interesting.
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