Maple Leafs Roundtable: Robertson, Simmonds & Reverse Retros

Welcome back to the second edition of Toronto Maple Leafs’ Roundtable. In the past week, we’ve had both the highest highs and the lowest lows of the young season to discuss. There were negatives, such as the team’s embarrassing 4-2 loss to the Arizona Coyotes, and the comments that followed from Sheldon Keefe and Mitch Marner.

Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumours: Samsonov, Kampf, Tavares & Simmonds

But, between Nick Robertson’s electrifying season debut, and the return of Wayne Simmonds and Kyle Clifford to the lineup, there were some positive talking points, too. All in all, it was about as eventful a week as you can get for the middle of October. Oh, and there was the release of the new Reverse Retro jerseys to discuss as well, just to add a little extra spice. This week’s roundtable is going to feature contributions from The Old Prof (Jim Parsons, Sr.), Peter Baracchini, Shane Seney, and myself. Without further ado, here’s what our Maple Leafs contributors had to say about the week that was.

1. What Would Be a Successful Season For Nick Robertson? 

The Old Prof: So far, to my mind, it isn’t the scoring so much as it is the energy – or both together. The scoring is good obviously; but, during the Dallas Stars game, Robertson injected energy that was truly needed by the team. That’s why I believe Keefe kept throwing him out there, including in overtime. Sure, the scoring is great, but the energy also is excellent. If he can be the energy guy for this team, that would go a long way toward pulling them forward. I can see the team rallying around him. He seems to be a favourite.

Peter Baracchini: If Robertson continues to string together consistent games as a top-six forward, I expect him to have a very successful season. If he’s able to produce around 40-45 points, that in itself would be great secondary production in what would be his first full season with the Maple Leafs.

Nick Robertson Toronto Maple Leafs
Nick Robertson, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

With talk about injuries, defensive play and overall consistency, he seems more determined than ever to crack the roster and maintain that spot over Denis Malgin. It was a tough decision to send him back to the minors, but he got the call-up and continued where he left off in the preseason. It’s hard to not like what we’ve seen as he’s proving to be ready for the NHL.

Shane Seney: 40 points and more specifically, 20 goals is what I’d consider a success. This is assuming he stays on the second line which is where he should stay.

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Alex Hobson: I’ve maintained all throughout the offseason, training camp, preseason, and the start of the regular season that if the Maple Leafs plan to keep Robertson with the team, they need to play him in a role he can thrive in with his skillset. So far, it looks like he’s found a home on the second line with John Tavares and William Nylander, at least for the near future. And if he stays there, I think 20 goals would be a successful rookie season for the Californian. 

Robertson’s impact was easy to see from the get-go in his debut against the Stars. Of course, helping the team rebound after that loss to the Coyotes and doing it against his own brother’s team to boot had to have fueled his adrenaline a little bit. For a player who’s got one of the best shots on the team, 20 goals should be the goal for him, and it should be an easy one to achieve if he consistently plays like he has through these first few games. 

2. What Should the Maple Leafs Do With Wayne Simmonds? 

Prof: Simmonds, as shown in the Winnipeg Jets’ game, still has some game left. If the team continues to have the salary-cap space to utilize him in spot duty against teams that are reputed to take physical advantages, just being on the ice is an advantage for the Maple Leafs. 

Against the Jets, although Simmonds didn’t engage physically, the rest of the team seemed to get the memo to stick up for each other. In fact, Simmonds might BE the memo. Spot duty, as needed.

Baracchini: It’s tough because the Maple Leafs could use someone like Simmonds in the lineup. He’s a great veteran and leader on and off the ice, but given his play last year and the players they added, it looked like he may have played his last game. He did show some signs of promise that he might stay on the roster in the preseason, but Zach Aston-Reese and Nicolas Aube-Kubel had an advantage with their speed. Then you see incidents where Auston Matthews gets hit, and no one sends a message. Simmonds is the kind of player to do just that. 

While the option of trading him might still be the best option for him to get consistent fourth-line minutes, if he can get back to a form where he provides great energy and physicality, he can still be a valuable asset as he brings something the team lacks. Keeping him around will make other teams think twice about taking cheap shots at the Maple Leafs’ star players.

Seney: I was a bit taken aback when Matthews called Simmonds “family”. That shows how much his teammates love him and I think he brings an element of sandpaper they don’t necessarily have a lot of. At this point, given his role and contract, I’d keep him in the lineup and consider moving out Pierre Engvall if they need to free up any cap space.

Hobson: When it was first announced that the Maple Leafs would be making Simmonds available for trade, I felt sad, but encouraged by the possibility of a move, seeing that he likely doesn’t want to spend his last few years as a part-time player. He had said that he feels like he still has gas left in the tank, but understood the circumstances surrounding the Leafs’ depth. After watching that game against the Jets, the Maple Leafs shouldn’t be trading Simmonds under any circumstances, so long as he’s okay with not being an everyday player.

As it’s been implied by the writers above, what Simmonds does for the team just by being in the dressing room alone is worth keeping him around. Is he one of the team’s best 12 forwards with a fully healthy roster? No, but you could see how infectious his presence was in the lineup, and with team toughness being a talking point throughout the entire era with this group, they should keep him, even if he only plays once every three or four games. 

3. Thoughts On the New Reverse Retro Jerseys? 

Prof: I like them. But then, I tend to wake up happy. So, I’m not the most critical knife in the drawer. That said, I’ve liked what I’ve seen of them thus far. First impressions are positive.

Baracchini: Honestly, I don’t mind the Reverse Retro jerseys. Just by looking at it, it’s a significant improvement over the previous one where the grey didn’t really belong on the jersey. This version takes me back to the 1960s which pays a great homage to the past. I’m not a big fan of the outline on the leaf itself as it really doesn’t belong, but I do think they went a better route with this jersey.

Seney: Same old, same old. They look like any other Maple Leafs jersey. Some teams really went outside of the box and I think Toronto should have done the same. My suggestion would have been a play on the Canadian Retro jerseys and go full blue and white leaf across one side.

Hobson: I’m a big fan of the new Reverse Retro, but that’s mostly because I hated the previous one. Between the way-too-big blue-on-blue Maple Leaf and the addition of grey to the uniform, I wasn’t happy with the direction they took. So, when these new ones came out, my initial reaction was positive. 

Having said that, I agree with Shane in the sense that it would have been nice to see the Maple Leafs think outside of the box, even if that meant trying a new design rather than the traditional Maple Leaf. Especially since it’s a one-time jersey that wouldn’t be an official part of their uniforms. Maybe something with the CN Tower? Regardless, the jerseys look super clean even if they’re just basic, and I’ll bet they look even nicer in person. 

Maple Leafs’ Week Ahead: Western Road Swing 

The Maple Leafs kicked off their road trip with a win over the Jets and will now head to the American Pacific Coast for the next four games. They will take on the Vegas Golden Knights tonight at 10:00 PM Eastern, San Jose Sharks on Thursday night, Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night, and the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday night. 

Pierre Engvall Toronto Maple Leafs
Pierre Engvall, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Only one roster change has been announced ahead of the game tonight, and that’s the return of Engvall to the lineup in favour of Aston-Reese. Simmonds and Clifford each tallied a point in their only game of the season, so considering they were only dressed to set the tone of the game, that warrants another look for them by default. 

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Another thing to keep an eye on will be Ilya Samsonov and how he fares this week. The Russian netminder is off to a stellar start, wearing a perfect 4-0-0 record with a .938 save percentage (SV%) and a goals-against average (GAA) of 1.73. Keefe mentioned that Erik Kallgren would be getting some work as well, but it wouldn’t be shocking at all to see Samsonov start the next three games, including the first of the back-to-back this weekend. 

Be sure to leave a comment below if you have a topic or a question you want us to cover on next week’s roundtable. Until then, enjoy another week of Maple Leafs hockey and the chaos that comes with it.