In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll look at Alex Steeves’ background, both within the organization and prior to his signing. Second, I’ll share some not-surprising news (at least to me) that William Nylander is being tried out at the center – at least until John Tavares returns.
Finally, I’ll share a surprising report that the betting public and Maple Leafs’ fans might not see eye to eye. Interestingly, the odds of the Maple Leafs winning the Stanley Cup improved after the team traded for goalie Matt Murray and signed Ilya Samsonov.
Item One: Alex Steeves Is Still with the Maple Leafs
Alex Steeves is doing a good job hanging in there with the Maple Leafs’ training camp. Chances are that, because of the Maple Leafs’ depth and the fact that he doesn’t have to clear waivers, he won’t be making the team’s NHL roster this season. However, he’s shown well during the preseason and he’ll likely become part of the Maple Leafs’ future plans.
For Maple Leafs’ fans who might not know his story, Steeves was an undrafted player who went to the University of Notre Dame and had a strong NCAA career. Based on that performance, he was pursued by a number of NHL teams before he chose to sign with Toronto.
Steeves was hurt early last season, but when he returned to the Toronto Marlies he scored 46 points (with an equal number of 23 goals and 23 assists) in 58 games for the Marlies. He also played three games for the Maple Leafs. After the team’s first training camp cuts, Steeves was still a part of the group.
Steeves is a strong playmaker who’s quick on transition. When he wasn’t drafted; fortunately, he accepted a scholarship to play NCAA hockey with the University of Notre Dame. With the Fighting Irish, he played 104 games, scoring 33 goals and adding 36 assists. He signed with the Maple Leafs after finishing his third season of NCAA hockey.
Although Steeves will likely not make the roster out of training camp, he should see action with the team when other players are injured. He’s a speedy forward who’s strong on the puck. His grit and hustle are something Maple Leafs’ fans will love.
I predict that he’ll become a fan favorite simply because he’s an all-around hard worker who’ll bust his rear to dig out the puck.
Item Two: Is William Nylander Going to Play Center?
In today’s practice, the Maple Leafs did their usual line rushes. However, there was an interesting difference. William Nylander was centering the third line with Nick Robertson on his left and Denis Malgin on his right.
That makes sense. During preseason games, when Nylander played with both those players, they all looked good.
In fact, Nylander has consistently carried the offense in every game he’s played. He just looked engaged. In an earlier post, I wondered why he wasn’t a center. Now, it seems that, at least until John Tavares returns, he’s getting a chance to play that position.
Nylander hasn’t played at center regularly since 2015-16 season when he was with the Marlies. But as his head coach Sheldon Keefe noted, “He’s done it before and I think he has the ability.”
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That said, Keefe also noted that Nylander might only be a placeholder until Tavares returns. Currently, the Maple Leafs’ captain is out with an oblique injury. It is projected that Nylander will play center during the team’s home-and-home series with the Detroit Red Wings this weekend.
If this experiment goes well, would Keefe consider moving Nylander to the second-line center position and transferring Tavares to the wing? Keefe added that “it’s important for Willy to get some reps through the camp because he does play center there at times.”
What does that mean beyond the immediate? Who knows?
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
An interesting article in the Toronto Sun today reported that Maple Leafs’ fans and the betting public are (no pun intended) at odds. Heading into the 2022-23 regular season and the postseason, the team’s goaltending was seen to be one of the team’s biggest question marks.
But that opinion isn’t widely held by those outside the Toronto area. Instead, according to BetOnline.ag, the Maple Leafs’ Stanley Cup-winning odds increased from 12-to-1 on June 26 to 17-2 on October 6. That change is the result of the team trading for Matt Muray and signing Ilya Samsonov as a free agent. (from “Maple Leafs’ odds of winning a Stanley Cup increased after acquiring goalie Matt Murray,” Michael Traikos, Toronto Sun, 06/10/2022).
Interesting take, but I’m sure it’s one many Maple Leafs’s can’t get their head around.
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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