Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Waivers, Douglas, Matthews & Rielly

In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll take a look at the pattern the Maple Leafs have fallen into by losing its depth players just before the season starts. I wonder what players I’ve been writing about recently simply won’t be with the organization when the start of the season rolls around.

Sign up for our regular 'Maple Leafs Newsletter' for all the latest.

Second, I’ll comment on what Toronto Marlies’ players might be ready for the Maple Leafs’ roster. Third, I’ll share my anticipation for watching Auston Matthews play this season. He’s simply a great player.

Related: Maple Leafs Should Have Interest in Philippe Myers

Finally, although I sometimes feel I am drowning in a sea of negativity around the team this season, I’ll go positive and share one of my hopes for the season. I am hoping that Morgan Rielly once again comes close to winning the Norris Trophy.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

Item One: What Maple Leafs Players Will Be Gone on Waivers?

There’s an interesting thing that I see occurring with the Maple Leafs. On one hand, Maple Leafs’ fans critique the team’s management for not being smart about the players it signs; and, on the other hand, other NHL general managers are on the watch for Maple Leafs’ players who get put on waivers. These players are regularly snapped up by other teams.

Adam Brooks Toronto Maple Leafs
Last season, Adam Brooks got plucked off the Toronto Maple Leafs’ waivers.
(Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images)

Again, this season, when the team comes to finalize its roster before the opening of the regular season, how many of the players right now on the team’s depth will actually be with the organization? Will the Maple Leafs actually have depth; or, will these players be claimed off waivers by other teams?

Morning Skate newsletter Click To Subscribe

Last season, the team hoped to create depth at the center position, but then both Michael Amadio and Adam Brooks were claimed. Again, the team signed what look to me as good depth players (Adam Gaudette, Nicolas Aube-Kubel, Denis Malgin, Jordie Benn, and Victor Mete among others). I don’t expect the team to be able to sneak all these players through waivers.

Related: Canucks: Revisiting the Luongo Trade

Is that why so many have been signed? We’ll see the answer just before the start of the regular season. You can bet that, if the organization tries to sneak Benn and Mete through waivers, they’ll be snapped up. The same goes for Joey Anderson and Gaudette. I have to believe that Aube-Kubel will be kept on the roster, for sure. 

Item Two: Which Toronto Marlies Players Are Ready for Prime Time?

If, as I suggested in yesterday’s post, the Maple Leafs enter the regular season with spaces on their roster to fill as the season progresses, which Toronto Marlies players will get the first chances to be part of the Maple Leafs’ roster this season?

Alex Steeves Toronto Marlies
Can Alex Steeves make the Maple Leafs’ roster this season?
(Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

My first inclination is that the organization would love to see what Nick Robertson would do if he had a longer chance to play. But there’s also Alex Steeves, Curtis Douglas (who doesn’t want to see him play?), Nick Abruzzese, Bobby McMann (who’s a great story), and Pontus Holmberg (who might be a top-six candidate).

Related: 10 NHL Oddities We’ll Never See Again

I’m looking forward to seeing who of these players might be given the best shot. 

Item Three: Do Maple Leafs’ Fans Realize What They Have in Matthews?

Yesterday, I noted that one thing I’m looking forward to this season is listening to Joe Bowan and Jim Ralph on the radio calling the Maple Leafs’ games. Another thing I’m so looking forward to watching Auston Matthews play this season. There are very few players I’ve ever seen who are as good as he is.

Part of me fears that Maple Leafs’ fans have so reduced their vision to their belief that the team has no chance to do well this season that they’ll miss some of the amazingness of watching the team’s great talent on display. 

Auston Matthews Toronto Maple Leafs
Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Of all things, I was watching CFL (Canadian Football League) replays last night and thought of my own football career. In my day, we played both ways – offense and defense. On defense, I was a cornerback. The replays showed defensive halfbacks making mistakes that allowed receivers to catch passes. And, I had a couple of flashbacks where I had simply guessed wrong and went this way when I should have gone that way. 

Then (honestly) I thought about Matthews on the ice. Sure he makes mistakes and goes the wrong way. But he makes far fewer than most players. He also is fast enough and smart enough to overcome the mistakes he makes. Most hockey players – think Morgan Rielly – have upsides and downsides. But Matthews is simply an incredible player in all sorts of ways. And, he’s getting better and better. 

I’m looking forward to the regular season because I just can’t wait to see what he does. 

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

Over the past week or so, I’ve been thinking about some of the things I look forward to and hope will happen this season. Obviously, I hope the Maple Leafs win the Stanley Cup. However, in the meantime I don’t want to miss the ups and downs of the season.

Related: Maple Leafs’ Michael Bunting: Not Someone to Bet Against

Speaking of Morgan Rielly, I hope he comes close again to winning the Norris Trophy again. Rielly came as close to the Norris as he might ever come during the 2018-19 season. In that season, he scored 72 points in 82 games. 

However, the competition for the Norris is tougher than it’s ever been. There are so many great defenseman – Victor Hedman, Cale Makar, Adam Fox, Roman Josi, and others. If Rielly comes close, that likely means that the team is doing well.

Morgan Rielly Toronto Maple Leafs
Morgan Rielly, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

I am rooting for Rielly.

Even better if he has a good enough season to actually be in that competition. The Maple Leafs’ defense is improving. Rielly is good but needs the right context. Hitting 80 points would be great.