Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Tavares, Simmonds, Robertson & Soup

Expect the Toronto Maple Leafs to come out strong in their game against the Vancouver Canucks tonight. On Wednesday, the team suffered one of its most embarrassing losses when the Buffalo Sabres beat them by a score of 5-1. The team simply didn’t seem to have it three nights ago. One would assume tonight’s game will see Maple Leafs’ players come out much stronger. 

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The full capacity crowd on Wednesday had to have been disappointed. Obviously, Maple Leafs’ coach Sheldon Keefe was. His critique was pointed: “It was terrible from start to finish …  we were abysmal, all four lines.”

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Given that the Maple Leafs had won three in a row before falling on their collective faces to the Sabres, their poor showing was a bit of a surprise. That said, over the team’s last 11 games, the team is only 5-5-1. They need to be better.

In this edition of Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll share some of the news emerging from the team. I’ll also share a rumor that the changed lineup for tonight’s game might be an indication that Nick Robertson might be on the move. 

Item One: John Tavares Is on a Goal-Scoring Drought

One of the biggest issues the Maple Leafs face is getting its second line off the mark. The first line has been great over the past few games and has been carrying the team. However, Maple Leafs’ captain John Tavares has been on a goal-scoring drought that has stretched to 14 games. 

John Tavares Toronto Maple Leafs
John Tavares, Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

In fact, although he’s registered a number of assists, Tavares didn’t score a goal during the month of February. Can he score tonight? He looks as if he’s been close to breaking out. But can he do so?

Item Two: Wayne Simmonds Will Play His 1000th NHL Game Tonight

Congratulations to Wayne Simmonds who will be playing his 1,000th NHL game tonight. He’s had quite a great NHL career. Early in that career, he was one of the NHL’s great power-forwards. In total, he’s scored 262 goals and 259 assists (for 521 points). He’s also gained a reputation of being a physical player. To that end, he’s also been assessed 1,217 penalty minutes.

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On his long NHL journey, Simmonds believes his tenacity has been one of his greatest assists. His current teammate Jason Spezza noted how tough it has been for Simmonds to play for such a long time, especially given the way he plays. Spezza has played 1,227 games himself, so he appreciates Simmonds’ work. 

Wayne Simmonds Toronto Maple Leafs
Wayne Simmonds, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Spezza noted that, given how hard Simmonds plays, “the fighting, the hitting, playing around the net. Those are hard jobs and to play 1,000 is a heck of an accomplishment.” (from “Leafs’ Wayne Simmonds set for Game No. 1,000 … GameNight Canucks, Lance Hornby, Toronto Sun, 04/03/22).

Item Three: Jack Campbell Will Be Starting Tonight in Net

Jack Campbell has been given the start tonight against the Canucks. Although Campbell’s had a tough go recently, on the season his numbers look good. He’s logged a 23-8-4 record, a goals-against-average of 2.55, and a save percentage of .917 in 38 games played. 

Jack Campbell Toronto Maple Leafs
Jack Campbell, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Tonight he faces a Canucks’ team that has a 15-13-3 road record. However, since the Canucks brought in new head coach Bruce Boudreau, the Canucks’ record has improved a great deal. The last time the two teams played was on February 12, when the Canucks beat the Maple Leafs 3-2 in Vancouver.

Item Four: A Number of Maple Leafs Players Cannot Play Tonight

At least two players will likely not be playing against the Canucks tonight. Specifically, Ondrej Kase was not at practice this morning. He’s missed the last two games but did practice yesterday. However, given his absence from practice today, it isn’t likely he’ll play tonight.

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At the same time, Rasmus Sandin seems to be suffering from the flu that’s been going around and has missed practices both Friday and this morning. He, too, isn’t likely to play tonight.

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

Nick Robertson’s being lifted to the big club is drawing some speculation that he’s being showcased by the organization for a possible move. When he was called up, the team seemed to be doing well and Robertson himself had just returned to the Toronto Marlies’ lineup after another injury – a broken leg. 

Nick Robertson Toronto Maple Leafs
Nick Robertson, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images)

Since Robertson has been with the Maple Leafs, he’s played most of his time on the fourth line with Simmonds and Spezza. However, against the Sabres on Wednesday, he did get some time with Tavares and William Nylander. The question is whether coach Keefe really sees Robertson as the second line’s left-winger or whether Robertson might be destined to move.

Related: Maple Leafs’ Nick Robertson: His Progress, Problems & Potential

With the trade deadline coming up in a couple of weeks, it will be interesting to see whether Maple Leafs’ general manager will make a bigger move and who might leave to make that move possible. Is one of the youngsters on the move Robertson?