Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Wellwood, Matthews, Thornton & More

In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll share news that the Newfoundland Growlers have hired Eric Wellwood as their new head coach. Second, I’ll share the announcement that Auston Matthews has been named to be the cover athlete of EA’s NHL 22 game. Finally, I’ll share a report that the Maple Leafs never broached a possibility with Joe Thornton about bringing bought to the team.

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Item One: Eric Wellwood Named Head Coach of the Newfoundland Growlers

Earlier this morning the Maple Leafs announced that Eric Wellwood had been named the new head coach of the Newfoundland Growlers. He’ll become the third head coach in the Growlers’ history. Wellwood is a former NHL hockey player who played parts of three seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers. In total, he played 31 games with the Flyers between 2010 and 2013. 

His older brother Kyle played three seasons with the Maple Leafs from 2003 until 2008.

Item Two: Auston Matthews Cover Player for EA’s NHL 22

Earlier this week, Auston Matthews was revealed as the new cover player for EA’s NHL 22. It’s a great honor for any NHL player and suggests the popularity of whomever’s chosen. Interestingly, this isn’t the first time Matthews has been chosen to be on the cover of an EA game. He had previously been on the cover of NHL 20.

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From what I read, this year’s version of the game has created a new focus that’s intended to separate the superstars and the remainder of NHL players. There’s no doubt that the young Maple Leafs’ center is one of the NHL’s brightest stars. He easily outdistanced everyone to win last season’s Rocket Richard Trophy last by scoring 41 goals in only 52 games. 

Matthew noted, “I think it’s a good cover. Not many people get to be on the cover of the video game. I consider myself pretty lucky.” 

By the way, the producer of NHL 22 Clement Kwong shared the game’s intention: “We’re trying to re-create superstars in a way that’s authentic to hockey.”

As part of that change, in NHL 22, the NHL’s best players received increased skills. The best players in the game have been given what are called zone abilities that seek to mimic their game-changing on-ice behavior. Matthews’ zone ability is “Shock & Awe,” which tries to mirror his shooting power and accuracy when he’s moving from a deke before he curls and drags his shot. 

Item Three: Maple Leafs Never Spoke to Jumbo about Another Season

As reported by Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun, the Maple Leafs had never considered bringing Joe Thornton back for the 2021-22 season. As a result, Thornton signed with the Florida Panthers. (from “SIMMONS SAYS: Much ado about ‘All or Nothing,” Steve Simmons, Toronto Sun, 15/08/21).  

It’s pretty clear that Simmons isn’t a Thornton fan, and even suggested the Panthers made a mistake by signing a player who wasn’t that good last season. However, Simmons admitted that the team “adored” having Thornton as a team member for his locker-room leadership. However, for as good a mentor Thornton was, Simmons notes that he didn’t have much left as an on-ice player. He believed Corey Perry’s signing in Tampa Bay was a much better deal for his new team.  

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Simmons noted that Thornton was the sixth team member to leave the team since its disappointing  playoff loss to the Montreal Canadiens. Besides Thornton, he listed Zach Hyman, Nick Foligno, Frederik Andersen, and Zach Bogosian as gone. He also hinted that, although Alex Galchenyuk has yet to sign anywhere as a free agent, he’s likely gone as well.

However, the most interesting note was that the Maple Leafs hadn’t spoken with Thornton about bringing him back. Good luck to Thornton. Although I’m a Thornton fan and know he wants another chance to win a Stanley Cup, if the Panthers and the Maple Leafs meet in the playoffs, I’m hoping he has another team lined up for next season.

That said, Thornton has landed on a team with a good chance to be successful this coming season.

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

Speaking of Galchenyuk, I’m surprised he remains unsigned. What that means for the Maple Leafs’ possibilities to bring him back, I don’t know. To my count, the Maple Leafs have at least 15 forwards who will be vying for a place on the team’s opening game roster. The team has been busy signing players.

Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Ho-Sang, Imoo, Rielly & Galchenyuk

It makes me wonder whether the Maple Leafs have given up signing the recently-nomadic Galchenyuk. However, I suppose I won’t be surprised if we get news about Galchenyuk – one way or another.

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