The Toronto Maple Leafs are done there sleepy two weeks, the slowest two weeks of action all season. I hope all the fans spent time with their families because the next month and a half will be busy for the blue and white. Toronto has 22 regular-season games to go, and they will play them at a breakneck pace – 22 games in 42 days.
Surprisingly, Kyle Dubas has been quiet during this slow period. As you’re well aware, every trade bait player has been somehow attached to a Toronto rumour. Many observers predicted the general manager would make a move during the last two weeks – it’s been silent in the front office. Dubas has said that he would trade a top prospect if a deal presented itself. He also said the majority of the conversations have been about forwards. There were rumours that Eric Staal could be coming to Toronto. But the rival Montreal Canadiens swooped in to get the veteran centre. Marc Bergevin is laughing. All the Hab’s general manager had to give up was a third and a fifth, while the Buffalo Sabres retained half of Staal’s pay. We will likely never know if Dubas was in talks with Buffalo, but it would be hard to imagine that he couldn’t match that asking price.
That said, Dubas may have found that top-six forward he wanted. Alex Galchenyuk has played well and seems to be a perfect fit on the John Tavares and William Nylander line. He is making a case for the comeback story of the season. The Toronto writing team for the Hockey Writers discussed the reclamation project during the Maple Leafs Lounge. Watch the latest episode below.
Sheldon Keefe continues to be the most talked to head coach in the NHL. He will coach his 82nd game this week. Yes, under normal circumstances, it would be his first regular season in the books. It’s been a long time coming as Keefe was named the 31st head coach in Maple Leafs’ history way back in November of 2019. The 40-year-old did take a moment to chat with the fans during his downtime. He was part of a special “Behind the Bench” presented by Aeroplan. The coach was incredibly truthful, even admitting he was not a Maple Leafs fan growing up. Keefe also gave a lot of insight into his coaching philosophy. He talked about earning respect and his role to motivate the players.
Campell’s Crease and the Future of the Leafs’ net
It’s been a long time coming, but Jack Campell is a starter in the NHL. He was drafted 11th overall way back in 2010. Sure, he has started plenty of games, but it has never been his net. With the ongoing injury situation with Frederik Andersen, Campbell is now the guy. He earned two more wins in the last week, and is now a perfect 6-0 on the season. He had his weakest performance in a 4-3 win over the Edmonton Oilers. Campbell was extremely critical of himself after the game. It will be interesting to see how he bounces back. But we will have to wait for that performance, as Michael Hutchinson gets the call on Monday night.
Newly acquired, Veini Vehvilainen has cleared his 14-day quarantine and been assigned to the taxi squad. As Keefe calls him, Double V was traded to Toronto from the Columbus Blue Jackets for Mikko Lehtonen. The Leafs are likely to take a good look at Vehvilainen. His acquisition, along with Andersen’s injury and impending free agency, has brought attention to Toronto’s situation in the crease. It’s clearly the shallowest position on the depth roster in the Maple Leafs’ system. If not addressed before the trade deadline, then this will likely be Dubas’ first priority in the offseason.
Toronto has four games this week. Three of them are against teams within a couple of points of top spot in the North Division, one against the Edmonton Oilers and two with the Winnipeg Jets. The Maple Leafs’ nine-point cushion has been eroded and not likely to be reestablished with the season quickly approaching an end. Enjoy the next six weeks of great hockey.
Kevin Armstrong is an award-winning journalist with more than two decades of experience. He’s been rink side for World Juniors, Memorial Cups, Calder Cups and Stanley Cups. Like many Canadian kids, his earliest memories include hockey. Kevin has spent countless hours in arenas throughout the country watching all levels of the game.