Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Simmonds, Timmins, Benn & Gio

In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I’ll take a look at the player news headed into the Minnesota Wild afternoon game today. With the team as injured as it is, there are a lot of player movements to know about.

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I suppose this happens to all NHL teams, but the Maple Leafs have seemed to be hit hard by injuries this season. Yet, they are holding in there. What does this mean for the team going forward? Who knows? We will see over the next few games.

Item One: Conor Timmins  Practices with Leafs on Thursday

Yesterday, Conor Timmins met his new teammates for the first time in his first practice with the team. That said, although he’s here and physically ready for action, it looks as if Victor Mete will draw into the mix as the team’s third defensive pairing. Mete will partner with Mac Hollowell, who survived his first NHL game. It was a wild one. 

When questioned after the trade, Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas told the media that Timmins had recovered fully from his upper-body injury. That said, he’ll probably have a practice or two more with his team before he suits up for his first Maple Leafs’ game action.

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Sadly, for the St. Catherines native, Timmins has dealt with injuries throughout his entire hockey career – even, since he played juniors. With the Maple Leafs, his first role will be as a bandaid for an injured defensive corps. However, Timmins might be one of those players where there could be more.

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Ironically Timmins’ own injuries have prevented him from ever reaching the potential he showed early and that made him a second-round draft choice (32nd overall) of the Colorado Avalanche in 2017. Unfortunately, those injuries have also limited him to 41 NHL games. 

Should Timmins ever be able to stay healthy, after the short-term fix he provides for the team, it will be interesting to see if he can revive his potential in Toronto. It wasn’t much of a long-term gamble by the organization.

Item Two: Wayne Simmonds Draws into the Lineup Today

Reports are that Wayne Simmonds will take his place on the fourth line of the Maple Leafs’ starting lineup today in Minnesota. I’m guessing that, with the arrival of newcomer and tough guy Ryan Reaves from the New York Rangers to the Wild, the Maple Leafs saw the need to also invite Simmonds to the party.

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Will Simmonds be needed? Perhaps not, but why take a chance? Simmonds will be there just in case a bit of grit is needed. Simmonds was placed on waivers; however, no one picked him up. He’ll play his fifth game of the season later today as part of the fourth line. He’s registered a single assist in the previous four games he’s played.

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With Jordie Benn missing with an injury, Simmonds’ grit obviously is desired. 

Item Three: Jordie Benn Placed on IR (Injured Reserve)

Jordie Benn was placed on IR yesterday. Reports from head coach Sheldon Keefe are that Benn is week-to-week. Who would have thought that, with 21 games gone in the 2022-23 season, we’d be writing that Benn would be missed by his team? But he will be.

Jordie Benn Toronto Maple Leafs
Jordie Benn, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Kevin Sousa/NHLI via Getty Images)

After starting the season on IR with a groin injury, Benn has suited up for the Blue and White for the last six games. He’s not only looked good on the ice but he’s added a goal and an assist in those games. He’s also added a physical element with 18 hits and 15 blocked shots (almost three each game).

Item Four: Maple Leafs’ Fans Should Be Thankful for Mark Giordano

Speaking of blocked shots, I know Canadian Thanksgiving is past, but it is Thanksgiving week in the United States. It seems like a good time to send good thoughts toward Mark Giordano who signed a bargain deal to play in his hometown after coming at last season’s trade deadline from the Seattle Kraken.

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Although it’s hard to imagine, today’s first defensive pairing is the too-old Giordano and the much-maligned Justin Holl. When Giordano came to the team, a number of fans criticized the move stating that Giordano (at his age and to quote a fan) would be little more than a “pylon.” Holl still generates the redundant question: “Why is he still on the team? Yet, here they are being the bulwark of the team’s defensive corps.

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In the game against the New Jersey Devils, Giordano had to go back to the hotel bruised and battered. He seemed to always be in the play and always blocking a shot. On the night, he recorded six blocked shots in the team’s 2-1 win over the Devils. 

Giordano is fearless and he’s a good teacher. I can’t imagine where the team would be without him on the ice. 

Mark Giordano Toronto Maple Leafs
Mark Giordano, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Kevin Sousa/NHLI via Getty Images)

I saw a tweet that he was the oldest skater in the NHL this season. He doesn’t look it. He’s not producing offense as he used to in his heyday with the Calgary Flames. But he’s still got his high hockey IQ.

Giordano’s fearless ways helped the team end the Devils’ 13-game winning streak. 

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

If Matt Murray can stay hot in the net, the team can continue to win – even with a decimated lineup. There have been so many surprises this season with this team. And, to my mind, they haven’t found their mojo yet. Still, they hang around.

I’m unsure what that means for the long haul. As far as injury updates, I’ve not heard much about either Ilya Samsonov or TJ Brodie in the past few days. Samsonov is with the team on the four-game road trip, but Brodie stayed back home in Toronto.

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Samsonov was injured in his team’s win over the Boston Bruins on November 5 while trying to stop Brad Marchand’s penalty shot. Brodie blocked a shot from the Pittsburgh Penguins Chad Ruhwedel on November 11 and hasn’t played since. 

Both are key parts of the team. Samsonov has played eight games with the Maple Leafs and has put together a 6-2-0 record, with a 2.23 goals-against average and .921 save percentage.