It hasn’t gone that well for the Toronto Maple Leafs, but help is on the way. Captain John Tavares is likely to play this Saturday night. However, it seems when someone comes back, someone else leaves. Stalwart defenseman Jake Muzzin will miss Saturday’s game.
The Maple Leafs play in Philadelphia on Saturday against the Flyers, then come home for three games spaced out evenly – thankfully – over the next week. The team has had more than its share of back-to-back games, but there’s not another one until Nov. 9 and 10 when the team plays the Flyers again on Saturday and then flies into Chicago to play the Blackhawks on Sunday.
As the team looks forward to the week, the following news and rumor items have been reported for the team.
Item One: Muzzin Will Miss Saturday’s Game
Muzzin was injured against the Washington Capitals on Tuesday evening. After practicing on Friday, it looked as if Muzzin would return for Saturday’s game. However, it was reported that he wouldn’t play on Saturday “for personal reasons.” Muzzin has had a strong start to the season and his leadership has been emerging as the season has progressed.
Item Two: Tavares Likely to Return Against the Flyers
Tavares, who last played on Oct. 16 when he broke his finger against the Washington Capitals, is scheduled to return to the ice on Saturday. Tavares practiced both on Wednesday and Friday in his regular place in the lineup, and it looks as if he’ll come back ahead of schedule.
Toronto’s record, while its Captain was gone, was 2-2-2. There’s no doubt that he’s a settling influence on the team.
Item Three: Will the Maple Leafs Move Marincin?
In a Maple Leafs rumor, Elliotte Friedman, in his Oct. 30 31 Thoughts post, noted that the Maple Leafs would be interested in trading Martin Marincin. Marincin began his season on the third defensive pairing but was replaced in the lineup by Kevin Gravel (who’s since been sent to the Toronto Marlies). When Travis Dermott returned from his injury, Marincin was replaced yet again.
No pun intended, but it’s been an up-and-down season for Manincin. He’s a good depth defenseman, and from what I’ve seen has played well when he’s played. However, he’s lost his spot yet again to a returning player. That seems to be his lot with the Maple Leafs and, should he move on, I wish him well.
Friedman noted that Jake Muzzin’s health might change the Maple Leafs’ plans to move Marincin; however, the jury remains out on what’s going with Muzzin.
Item Four: Are the Maple Leafs Interested in Evan Rodrigues?
In the same post, Friedman reported that he believed Buffalo Sabres right-winger Evan Rodrigues would be a nice fit with the Maple Leafs. The 26-year-old has played just six games for Buffalo and has averaged less than 10 minutes of ice time per game. That isn’t much for a player who had a career-high 29 points in 2018-19 and then re-signed with the Sabres on a one-year, $2 million deal during the offseason.
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Rodrigues was a healthy scratch for the Sabres’ first three games because his preseason was so disappointing. Recently, he’s returned to the lineup but has only played bottom-six minutes. As Friedman noted, he’d be a good fit for either Ottawa or Toronto, but he doesn’t think the Sabres would be willing to help the Maple Leafs.
Item Five: Hyman Will Be Traveling on this Road Trip
In a note of good news for the Maple Leafs, Zach Hyman will travel with the Maple Leafs on the team’s road trip. Although he’s unlikely to play, it bodes well that he’ll make the trip. He looks ready to suit up sometime during November.
Although CBS sports suggests that, when Hyman is cleared to play, he’ll likely play in a bottom-six role that will bump Dmytro Timashov from the lineup. I might be wrong, but I don’t think that’s head coach Mike Babcock’s plan. Unless someone emerges who can fore-check like a demon, I think Babcock can’t wait to get Hyman digging around the corners throwing out pucks to his goal-scoring forwards. We’ll see who’s right soon enough.
Item Six: Petan Has Been Sent to the Toronto Marlies
The Maple Leafs moved Nicolas Petan to its American Hockey League affiliate, the Toronto Marlies on Nov. 1. The 24-year-old Petan, a healthy scratch for all but one of this season’s Maple Leafs games, will likely be one of the first players the team calls up if injuries happen; however, he’ll stay with the Marlies until he’s needed. Right now, it’s unclear how Hyman’s return will impact Petan’s status with the team.
Item Seven: Gilmour Is Coming Home to the Maple Leafs
Doug Gilmour, a former team captain from 1994 to 1997, announced on Nov. 1 that he’s leaving his post as president of the Ontario Hockey League’s Kingston Frontenacs to join the Maple Leafs as a community representative. As Gilmour notes, “I’m thrilled to be returning to Toronto in a formal capacity at a time when there is so much excitement for a team stacked with incredible talent.”
Gilmour has spent the past decade with the Frontenacs. During that time, he’s been the team’s head coach, general manager, and most recently its president.
It’s not Gilmour’s first post with the Maple Leafs. He worked as a player development adviser from 2006 to 2008, and then joined the Marlies as an assistant coach before going to Kingston.
Item Eight: Two Maple Leafs Prospects Score Goals on Nov. 1
Two Maple Leafs prospects had strong games on Nov. 1. Prospect Kalle Loponen scored the game-winning goal as the Sudbury Wolves beat the North Bay Battalion 3-2. Loponen has scored 10 points in 17 games this season. In the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, the Maple Leafs picked up the young Finnish defenseman in the seventh round (204th overall).
And, in his first NCAA game ever, freshman Nick Abruzzese scored his first NCAA goal (and had two assists) in Harvard’s 7-3 win over Dartmouth. The Maple Leafs drafted Abruzzese in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft’s fourth round (124th overall).
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
It will be an exciting week coming up for the team, with injured players returning. Tavares is back, and Hyman is coming. The team might have a new look in the next couple of weeks. For many Maple Leafs fans, it won’t be soon enough.