Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Schenn, McCabe, Woll & More

For the second night in a row, the Toronto Maple Leafs gave up the first goal of the game. On Wednesday (night one) against the Edmonton Oilers, the game went downhill from there. On Thursday (night two), the Maple Leafs had another shaky start to the game when they gave up a short-handed goal early in the first period. It could have been a here-we-go-again moment.

Related: Henrik Lundqvist: By the Numbers for No. 30

However, the Maple Leafs didn’t fall apart. Instead, they regained their footing, played well, and came back for a hard-earned 2-1 win over the Calgary Flames. Mitch Marner led the way offensively, and Joseph Woll was solid in goal. In addition, the team saw an inspired performance from two new defensemen – Luke Schenn in his debut and Jake McCabe in his second game as a Maple Leafs’ player. 

Latest News & Highlights

In this edition of Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll look at some of the emerging news from the team – including some player notes from last night’s game. I’ll focus on both of the defensemen I noted above. I’ll also wonder about the future of Woll with the team.

Item One: So Far, the New Defense Seems to Be Working 

Part of the Maple Leafs’ significant roster remake was changing the defense corps. One of the team-acknowledged needs moving toward the postseason was to address the lack of experience on the blue line and to add more physicality to the lineup. 

Related: Ex-Maple Leafs Frederik “Goat” Gauthier: Where Is He Now?

On the blue line, the team acquired Erik Gustafsson, Jake McCabe, and Schenn. They were willing to trade away Rasmus Sandin to bring in more experience. So far, the defense has a completely different look; and in a small sample size, it seems to be working. 

Item Two: Luke Schenn Was Nostalgic about Playing with the Blue & White

Schenn is back with the Maple Leafs and reported he was experiencing some nostalgia about wearing the team’s jersey again. He was drafted by the Maple Leafs in the first round (fifth overall) of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. He began his NHL career with the Maple Leafs, playing for the team for four seasons before being traded to the Philadelphia Flyers in 2012 for James Van Riemsdyk.

Luke Schenn Leafs
Luke Schenn was the Maple Leafs’ fifth overall pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft
(Rich Kane/Icon SMI)

Over his NHL career, Schenn has played for seven NHL teams. They include the Maple Leafs, Flyers, Los Angeles Kings, Arizona Coyotes, Anaheim Ducks, Vancouver Canucks, and the Tampa Bay Lightning. He also had a few American Hockey League (San Diego Gulls, Utica Comets, and Syracuse Crunch) stops along the way to remake his game.

He’s become a reliable defenseman, and his experience and leadership should be a valuable asset in Toronto. Since he left the Blue and White, his eventful career includes winning two Stanley Cups. 

Related: Maple Leafs’ Commentary: Could Sandin Be Getting Bad Advice?

Returning to Toronto has a special meaning for him. After the game, Schenn shared with reporters, “looking back when you are 18 years old and you first wear it, you appreciate wearing the jersey, but I think with the ups and downs of my career and to come full circle and get the chance to wear it again it means a lot more.”

Although he played only 10:42 minutes, Schenn had a strong game against the Flames. He was every bit as physical as his reputation. This tough, hard-nosed defenseman was called the “human eraser” by new teammate Ryan O’Reilly for his ability to clear the front of the net and play a hard-nosed style of defense. 

How his season with his new/old team will be fun to see. So far, so good. He made a great first impression.

Item Three: Jake McCabe Had a Solid Game for His New Team

McCabe also seems to be fitting in well with the Maple Leafs’ systems. I thought his passes weren’t crisp against the Oilers on Wednesday, but Thursday was different. 

His pairing with defensive partner TJ Brodie was a good fit. He jumped into the offense, and like Schenn, moved the puck well up ice. One note he made about playing with the Maple Leafs is that he appreciates how committed the team’s forwards are to backchecking. 

Jake McCabe Toronto Maple Leafs
Jake McCabe, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

On Thursday, McCabe played over 20 minutes. As much as anyone, his game fits nicely with how Toronto plays. He’s an aggressive defender in the neutral zone, which is one reason he likes it when the forwards work hard defensively. I would guess from his comments might suggest he sometimes got hung out to dry with the Chicago Blackhawks. 

Related: Eric Lindros Trade Revisited

If he continues to improve each game, the team will be happy it has him signed for another season.

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

Woll was steady in the net on Thursday. He made 25 saves on 26 shots to win his second NHL game of the season and the seventh of his NHL career. 

Is Woll’s performance good enough that he can be the backup goalie for the remainder of this season; or, would he even allow the Maple Leafs the luxury to count on him for next season? 

While that seems a long way away, given the laser-like focus on the present with the spate of trades the team has made, next season is coming. I’d love to see him play against the New Jersey Devils in the team’s last road game of this five-game trip. It could be his turn.

Explore everything hockey with THW’s Hockeypedia pages.

The Hockey Writers HockeyPedia 800x120