In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I speculate about what might happen with young Nick Robertson this season. Second, I look at the team’s third line construction and praise how valuable it was to the team’s success last season.
Third, I consider at least seven younger players who might make up a considerably more energetic fourth line for the team this season. Finally, I share a hope that I have for the coming season in regard to John Tavares.
Item One: Is the Second Line’s Left Wing Spot Nick Robertsons?
As the Maple Leafs draw nearer to the start of the 2022-23 regular season, one question that I think about is whether this season be Nick Robertson’s coming out party.
What gives me as much hope as anything for Nick Robertson is how well brother Jason is doing with the Dallas Stars. Although brothers Nick and Jason don’t share the size thing, Nick is 5-foot-9 and 164 pounds and Jason is 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, they share the same dogged work ethic and the same great shot.
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Older brother Jason, in his third season playing with the Stars, put up 41 goals and added 38 assists (for 79 points) in 74 games. That’s darn good. Over the past few seasons, brother Nick has suffered some injuries that have set him back. However, in his best healthy stretch with the Marlies last season, he was a point-a-game player. He scored 16 goals and added 12 assists (for 28 points) in 28 games.
In his limited time on NHL ice last season, the younger Robertson gathered two points playing on the team’s second line with John Tavares and William Nylander. Adding the players the Maple Leafs have brought in to the players on the Marlies roster who might find homes on the Maple Leafs’ roster, it seems as if the fourth line will be covered well.
That suggests, but I can’t know this for sure, that the Maple Leafs’ plans might be to give Robertson a chance to become a regular for the team. I also have to think it will be on the second line. Given his skillset, his history of already seeing time with Tavares and Nylander, and the way the team has been covering the other lines, that spot seems to have his name on it.
Because Alex Kerfoot looks destined to become a salary-cap sacrifice, I would love to see the Maple Leafs cover the “empty” left-wing spot with an internal option. I’d also love to see Robertson get his chance in that spot and on the second unit of the team’s power-play. Those opportunities would seem to maximize his talents.
Item Two: Is the Fourth Line This Season’s Project?
Last season, building head coach Sheldon Keefe’s dream of a third-line shutdown unit seemed to be general manager Kyle Dubas’ project. In that, his job deserves a thumbs up.
About this time last season, in the conversation section of posts, some fans were grumbling about David Kampf. What would the team want with this retread? He’d only scored a single goal with the Chicago Blackhawks the season before; and, his own team didn’t want him enough to qualify him. He’s a nobody.
Turns out he was a somebody, and a valuable somebody as well. Paired with Pierre Engvall and Ilya Mikheyev, the third line was a huge upside for the team. It was also part of the reason last season’s Maple Leafs’ team set franchise records for wins and points.
Mikheyev’s strong play put him out of the team’s ability to pay him commensurately with his market value. So, the team went out and signed Calle Jarnkrok to take Mikheyev’s place. This offseason, Maple Leafs’ fans are dissing Jarnkrok’s value to the team in the conversation section. Can’t score; too old; etc. Still, the third line is covered.
Is the fourth line this season’s project? The Maple Leafs have brought three players to the team – Nicolas Aube-Kubel, Adam Gaudette, and Denis Malgin (who was on loan to Switzerland). They also have some players who might jump up from the Marlies – Bobby McMann, Pontus Holmberg, Curtis Douglas, and Joey Anderson.
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Somewhere in those seven players, there’s the making of a solid and young line. There’s high energy. There’s even skill. There’s physicality. There’s leadership. There’s size. There’s desperation to prove one’s value.
This is a line that I’ll be watching during the season. As I’ve noted in earlier posts, it could be fun.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
I admit that I have a number of hopes for the upcoming 2022-23 regular season. Specifically, I hope Tavares is a point-a-game player once again. Maple Leafs’ fans are sometimes quick to disparage Tavares. Yes, his speed is slowing down. Still, he scored 76 points in 79 games last season.
If the team finds a solid left-winger (as I noted above, I’d be happy if it were Robertson) to join Tavares and Nylander, that could happen. In fact, I’d love to see Tavares hit 90 points. Thus far, his career high is 88 (it came in his first season in Toronto).
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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