The Toronto Maple Leafs had a Jekyll and Hyde month of April. The team entered the fourth month of the year and of the season with a solid winning streak. However, on April 12, the trade deadline, the Maple Leafs lost for the first time in six games. Toronto then went on to lose five games in a row. The powerplay disappeared, and the goaltending did too. However, Sheldon Keefe got the team back on track by the end of the month, putting together a four-game winning streak, including beating the Winnipeg Jets twice. The Jets at the time were within striking distance of the top spot.
As always, it is difficult to pick just three contributors to the Maple Leafs’ success. Since the start of the season, the rules have been that we would not just pick on points alone. That would be too predictable. However, on a team with the NHL’s leading scorer and a guy who is in the top three for points – it is tricky to leave them out.
3rd Star – John Tavares
Besides William Nylander, no other Maple Leafs player has been more criticized all season than the captain. John Tavares responded by putting together an eight-game point streak and tallying 17 points in 14 games during April. Statistics are one thing. If you watch the games, it is hard to miss number 91. He is skating fast and buzzing around the net. You may have also noticed a few smiles. That is a significant change from the beginning of the season.
2nd Star – Dynamic Duo
Yes, I may be taking the easy way out, but it’s impossible to not give these two all the accolades. Since game one of the season Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner have been a treat to watch play together.
During 14 games player in April, Marner put up 16 points, but he was also one of the top Maple Leafs for ice time. His penalty kill abilities have been on display all season and seemingly improving with every game. At the end of April, Marner had 62 points which is good for third in overall league scoring.
Matthews added to his goal-scoring highlight reel in April by scoring a few more than had you watching the replay extra times. He put up 18 points in 13 games in April, and he currently leads the NHL with 36 goals on the season, eight more than second place.
1st Star – Maple Leafs Front Office
There is nowhere in the rule book that says this must be players. The Maple Leafs’ front office, including general manager Kyle Dubas and assistant general manager and capologist Brandon Pridham had an opportunity in April to step up. The team was very aggressive at the deadline and brought in the Columbus Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno, goalie David Rittich, depth defenseman Ben Hutton, playoff performer Riley Nash and forwards Stefan Noesen and Antti Suomela.
All these trades were made without changing the makeup of the current roster and by bartering portions of the acquired player’s salary onto other teams.
Dubas is the general manager and makes the final call, but he said he could not do it without Pridham. “He’s an indispensable part of the group. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate Brandon. Whatever awards there are for that position, I certainly think he should win them.”
Finally, we owe a special shout-out to Jason Spezza. The veteran started an idea to get a collection going to pay the Toronto Marlies. Spezza and some veterans and higher-paid players pooled their money to get some cash to their AHL teammates. Players in that league have had their pay cut due to a COVID-related shortened season.
Kevin Armstrong is an award-winning journalist with more than two decades of experience. He’s been rink side for World Juniors, Memorial Cups, Calder Cups and Stanley Cups. Like many Canadian kids, his earliest memories include hockey. Kevin has spent countless hours in arenas throughout the country watching all levels of the game.