Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Suzuki, Gaudette & Anderson

In his edition of Toronto Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll share something that the Montreal Canadiens’ Nick Suzuki said in a recent interview that suggests how deep the rivalry between the Canadiens and the Maple Leafs might be.

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Second, I’ll take a look at Adam Gaudette. While Maple Leafs’ fans might not know much about the 25-year-old, I have great hopes for him as a roster member. I know his body of work from 2019-20 with the Vancouver Canucks. Finally, I’ll speculate about a possible roster space for Joey Anderson.

Item One: Nick Suzuki Was Cheering for Tampa Bay

When Nicolas Aube-Kubel was signed by the Maple Leafs, he noted that one of his hesitations was (being from Montreal) signing with the Canadiens’ archrival Toronto. At the time, I just smiled to myself. If the Maple Leafs can’t win, I usually wind up cheering for another Canadian team. [It’s been a long time since a Canadian team won the Stanley Cup.] 

Nick Suzuki Montreal Canadiens
Nick Suzuki, Montreal Canadiens (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

But I might need to rethink my stance. I guess there’s a deeper rivalry than I had anticipated. In a recent interview, when the Canadiens’ Nick Suzuki was asked what he thought about the Maple Leafs’ 2022 playoff effort when they lost in the first round to the eventual Eastern Conference winners the Tampa Bay Lightning, he was pretty clear he wasn’t cheering for another Canadian team.

Related: Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors: Robertson, Tavares & Fourth Line

The 22-year-old, London, Ontario, native admitted that it was the “first time I was cheering for Tampa.” Suzuki added that “it was weird cheering for the team that beat you last year, but it turned out pretty good.”

Item Two: Can Adam Gaudette Make a Difference for the Maple Leafs?

I admit I am a fan of Adam Gaudette. I got to watch him play with the Vancouver Canucks when he had a strong season in 2019-20. During that season, he showed what I thought was a great amount of skill and scored 33 points in 59 games with the Canucks. 

True, things have not been so good for Gaudette lately. But, from what I saw, the skill level was present. He was especially good in transition; and, more often than not, on a clear breakaway he’d find a way to hit the back of the twine.

Adam Gaudette, Chicago Blackhawks
Adam Gaudette, when he was with the Chicago Blackhawks
(Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Last season, the 25-year-old center played with both the Chicago Blackhawks and the Ottawa Senators. He totalled 14 points in 58 games, which is not a good showing. After his NHL season was over, however, he did play for Team USA at the World Championships. There, in 10 games, he scored six goals and added two assists (for eight points). 

Has some of the old magic returned? If so, it might be that his stomach issues have been mediated. He had suffered a loss of appetite and an inability to recover from exertion or put muscle on his body.

Related: Vancouver Canucks’ Adam Gaudette: Is He Here to Stay?

Given that Gaudette is still young and given the Maple Leafs’ world-class medical facilities and player development area, Maple Leafs’ fans should expect the best version of Gaudette to return to the ice. 

Obviously, that doesn’t mean Gaudette will be a hit. In fact, he might not even make the opening roster. But, if he’s willing to work at it, there’s a lot the organization can do – in every aspect of his game – to help him improve his opportunities. 

If Gaudette can eliminate the issues that might have plagued him over the last few seasons, he could have a good showing at the Maple Leafs’ upcoming training camp. If that happens, who knows what his season might look like?

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

With the Maple Leafs’ project of improving the team’s fourth line, it would seem Joey Anderson might have a cleaner slide into a roster spot than he’s had before. In addition, the 24-year-old Anderson is no longer exempt from being claimed off waivers. I can’t imagine the team would risk trying to slide him through unnoticed.

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Anderson has a few things going for him. His attitude is excellent. Although he spent time in the NHL with the New Jersey Devils and might feel entitled to more chances in prime time, his play didn’t deteriorate when he was with the Toronto Marlies. 

Detroit Red Wings Jimmy Howard New Jersey Devils Joey Anderson
Detroit Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard stops a shot by New Jersey Devils right wing Joey Anderson (when he was with the Devils) (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Maple Leafs’ fans would have to think he sees an opportunity to find a spot on the fourth line and will fight hard for that chance. A few things stand out for me when I look at his statistics. First, he can provide secondary scoring. Last season with the Marlies, he scored 26 goals and added 16 assists (for 42 points). Second, he looks as if he’d be value added on the team’s penalty kill. Anderson scored five shorthanded goals with the Marlies last season. 

Now that Jason Spezza retired; Colin Blackwell has moved on; and, Wayne Simmonds is unlikely to have a regular role every game, there are likely fourth-line spots open for players. It will be interesting to see how Anderson plays this season.