In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs News & More, I’ll report on changes and updates to the team’s roster and changes within the organization’s area of Player Development.
Item One: The Maple Leafs Area of Player Development is Changing
In one notable move, the Maple Leafs have promoted Class of 2019 Hockey Hall of Fame inductee and former great Canadian women’s hockey player Dr. Hayley Wickenheiser to the role of Senior Director of Player Development. Dr. Wickenheiser received her education at the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine. She’s been working with the Maple Leafs since 2018 as an assistant director of player development.
In other moves within the area, Danielle Goyette has been hired as the club’s Director of Player Development. Skills coach Darryl Belfry of Belfry Hockey Inc. will oversee the technical development of the club’s players and staff and Will Sibley has been promoted to become the Director of Development Operations and Analysis.
Item Two: Defenseman Ben Hutton Is Ill But Not with COVID-19
Yesterday, head coach Sheldon Keefe reported that Ben Hutton is being monitored for a non-COVID, non-hockey related medical issue. Hutton wasn’t on the ice for practice either Sunday or Monday; and, apparently he isn’t injured. However, he’s ill.
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The newcomer to the Maple Leafs defensive core came from the Anaheim Ducks at the trade deadline and has played in four games with the Maple Leafs since his arrival. There’s no word on whether he’ll be ready for game action on Thursday evening.
Item Three: Zach Bogosian Will Be Ready for Game Action on Thursday
In a bit of good news for the Maple Leafs, third-pairing defenseman Zach Bogosian’s injured shoulder looks to be healed, which would allow him to be ready for game action for Thursday’s game against the Montreal Canadiens. That’s a significant move since Sunday, when he took part in practice but in a red non-contact jersey.
Bogosian’s injury happened on April 23 when slid feet-first into the boards. At the time, the prognosis was that he’d miss at least four weeks, and he’s now a bit ahead of schedule. He’ll be a welcome addition to the Maple Leafs’ lineup.
Now that Bogosian has the medical green light, he’ll still need to get up to game speed and shake off the rust during practice this week. Although coach Keefe seemed pleased with Bogosian’s progress, there’s still the question of whether he’d be in game shape to start immediately in the Maple Leafs lineup? Four weeks is a considerable time away from game action.
Item Four: Zach Hyman Is Back with the Top Line in Practice
It certainly looks as if Zach Hyman’s sprained knee is completely healed and he’ll be ready to take a spot in the Maple Leafs lineup for Thursday night’s game. Furthermore, it looks as if that spot will be on the team’s top line with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner.
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Hyman has not played in exactly a month. He suffered his knee injury on April 18 when he was involved in a knee-on-knee collision with Vancouver Canucks defenseman Alex Edler.
Hyman optimistically reported, “I don’t think I’ve been off too long. I’ve been skating and trying to stay in game shape so I’m just excited. The playoffs are a whole new level so just to get back into that game, I’ll be into it right from the first shift and ready to get going.”
Because Hyman has been a really quick starter coming off an injury, it might be that the injury layoff could help him pile up the reserve he needs for the full-out assault he brings to the ice game after game. No one I watch works harder on every shift and, even if he’s in top physical shape, the wear on one’s body must be great. Could the month off have actually helped him charge his playoff batteries?
At least that’s what coach Keefe suggested when he noted, “You never like to play without Zach Hyman in your lineup, but I did look at it as positive that a guy who gives so much to every shift and every rep he gets — whether it is a practice or a game — [got] time to recover and be fresh for playoffs.”
Keefe’s final comment was “I certainly think we are going to see a very prepared Zach Hyman.”
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
On Toronto 1050 Sports Radio, former NHL Head Coach and current NHL Network Analyst Bruce Boudreau was talking about the upcoming playoff series between the Maple Leafs and the Canadiens and shared his insights about the Maple Leafs’ goalie tandem of Jack Campbell and Frederik Andersen. The former Anaheim Ducks coach shared his experience with Andersen during the 2016 playoff series against the Nashville Predators. Before that series started, he had two strong goalies and had to decide whether to play John Gibson or Andersen as the Game 1 starter.
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He chose Gibson, who lost the first two games to the Predators. He then changed to Andersen for game three and Andersen proceeded to win the next three games of the series. His point was that Andersen’s been a backup goalie before and had responded by playing well.
However, the end of the story that Boudreau didn’t share was that Nashville came back to eventually win the series against Anaheim four games to three. Despite Andersen’s great play over the last two games, he was the losing goalie.
It makes me wonder. Is that a good story for Maple Leafs’ fans or not?