Maple Leafs THW Readers’ Insights: Playing in Canada, New Signs & Team Effort

As readers of my Toronto Maple Leafs’ posts have heard often from me, I value their insights and additions to my work. I am in debt to those who read my posts and take the time to add to the discussion sections at the bottom. I do make errors, in both thinking and writing; and, usually, in a gentle manner, I am reminded of these and corrected. 

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I appreciate both the insights and the conversation readers add to the posts and also the manner in which they engage each other in conversations about their team – the Maple Leafs. They have opinions but are generally gracious.

Related: Meeting Maple Leafs’ Greats: Our Readers Share Their Stories

I recently asked the chief editor of The Hockey Writers if I might start sharing some of the great comments THW readers make and was encouraged to do so. As a note, I have made small editorial tweaks just for length and clarity; but, I’ve tried not to change the content of the ideas presented.  

Thank you, readers. I’d like to do this again soon.

Reader One: On the Difficulty of Playing in Toronto and in Canada (Bubba)

(The Old Prof’s Note) In a recent post, reader “Bubba” noted some of the difficulties NHL players might have if they were playing in Canada. Bubba noted:

“If I were a free agent or had a no-trade clause, I would avoid Canadian teams at all costs! Only in Canada can a 24-10 team get the ridiculous amount of downright spew and venom! It is no coincidence that it is going on three decades without a Stanley Cup in Canada! 

Maple Leafs celebrate the 1964 Cup win.

Florida has had the same amount of playoff success as the Maple Leafs, and has had some lopsided losses this year; however, the next day’s discussions don’t have a “the sky is falling” vibe to them. (Steven) Stamkos knew this and stayed away from his hometown club. There’s something very wrong when the top teams in the league are Tampa Bay, Florida, and Carolina! 

Related: Stamkos’ Legacy Is on the Line in 2021 Playoffs

If I were a player that is where I would want to play. Not in a Canadian city, where putting a fourth-liner on waivers is headline news! I am a fan of the Leafs and was alive when they won their last four (Stanley) Cups and will continue to cheer for them, but I hold out very little hope of seeing a cup in Toronto, let alone ANY other Canadian city!”

Thanks, Bubba.

Reader Two: On the Quality of Preseason Signings (gcmgome)

(The Old Prof’s Note) One interesting thing about the Maple Leafs this season was that the team had to go shopping in the offseason to find players who helped fit the team’s needs but who could be signed to bargain contracts. The Maple Leafs’ salary-cap upper limits squeezed the team’s ability to reload. In a post recently following goalie Petr Mrazek’s solid game against the New York Islanders, regular reader gcogome wrote about this issue in reviewing Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas’ offseason signings. 

Petr Mrazek, Toronto Maple Leafs
Petr Mrazek, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

“Five days ago I opened a comment with this statement: “Mark my words: During some game in the near future Petr Mrazek will become possessed by the ghost of Glenn Hall and demonstrate how good he can be.” Say what you will about how much of an exaggeration that was, Mrazek did make some nice saves during last night’s game. I found myself watching the shot counter hoping he could improve his stat line as well as hold on for the win. He posted a .964 save percentage. 

Just imagine how we will view this past off-season’s five key signings if Mrazek can play the rest of the season as he did in the New York Islanders game? Four of those five players signed would then be home runs…that’s batting .800 to continue with the baseball metaphor. 

Related: Maple Leafs Sign Mrazek to 3-Year Contract

Another takeaway from last night’s game was that the Maple Leafs to a man were the opposite of “soft and purposeless.” You cannot expect a team built with a philosophy of skill first to play lunch-pail hockey, but when you see player after player sacrificing the body to make plays, it is encouraging. This is the first time I have been convinced that this team will do what is necessary to win in the playoffs.”

Thanks, gcogome.

Reader Three: On the Maple Leafs’ Recent Effort and Support for Muzzin and Holl’s Play  (Keith Bevans)

(The Old Prof’s Note) It’s not a new thought that last season’s solid shutdown defensive pairing Jake Muzzin and Justin Holl have not had the same kind of solid season in 2021-22. In this discussion comment, Keith Bevans shares some thoughts about the quality of their play and how sometimes good defensemen can go unnoticed.

“It’s nice to see the Maple Leafs win a game with a team effort. I had my doubts and fears entering the night, but Petr Mrazek looked good. … He needs more work. Keefe looked composed on the bench. Certainly, he wasn’t overly relaxed. 

The Leafs don’t look solid without Muzzin and Holl. For all the Holl haters out there, you’ll never notice the best efforts he demonstrates defensively. It’s just a fact because that’s how it works out. The best defensive plays every game are hardly noticed. The panic last-ditch energy defensive efforts look great… but that’s the last thing you want to see a defenseman do in a game. The best defense is always confident containment, orderly puck control, and comfortable puck exits from the defensive end of the playing surface. 

Jake Muzzin Toronto Maple Leafs
Jake Muzzin, Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Muzzin and Holl have both looked slightly short of shaky this season. Both players must be dealing with issues. I’d assume those issues are both physical and headspace. Regardless, the Maple Leafs are a better team when both are playing up to 75 percent of their professional potential. If both came on at an 80 percent level; well, I’d hope they do that in the playoffs. The regular season is where you really want to make all the serious ugly gaffs and mistakes.”

Thanks, Keith.

A Final Thank You to Readers

Thanks for sharing these insights. As I noted, I’d like to do this again soon. I value the additions readers make and I value the engaged community we have at The Hockey Writers as we cheer for our respective teams. 

Related: Maple Leafs Not Getting What They Need From Muzzin or Holl

Thanks again for these additions.