In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I want to take a look at the state of the team as they ready themselves to play the Anaheim Ducks tonight and complete the fourth game of their thus far successful four-game road trip.
Item One: Revenge as a Maple Leafs’ Motive
In a previous post, I noted that the Maple Leafs had exacted revenge on both the Lost Angeles Kings and the San Jose Sharks for losses early during the season. What I forgot to include was the fact that the team also lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins earlier in the season as part of their early losing streak.
Had the Maple Leafs been able to beat the Penguins in their return match, that would have made it three for three in exacting revenge on teams who had previously beaten them. The Maple Leafs play the Penguins again on December 29 in Toronto. There’s still revenge to be had. Hopefully, they can remember their two earlier losses and “right that wrong” then.
Item Two: Joseph Woll Has Been Much Better than Marlies’ Followers Expected
For Maple Leafs’ fans who also have followed the Toronto Marlies, the emergence of Joseph Woll has been a bit of a revelation. He’s played much better than anyone’s expected him to. It’s tough to believe that a young goalie who’s had a save percentage of .889 and a goals-against-average of 3.56 over three AHL seasons can hit the NHL running at the speed with which Woll has run. He’s come into the highest level of hockey and has gone 3-0 with a save percentage of .939 and a goals-against-average of 1.69.
When considering why we have five thoughts on that topic:
Thought #1: Some players, goalies especially, find the structure of the NHL more suitable to their game than the AHL.
Thought #2: The Maple Leafs might be playing so well defensively that an “average” AHL goalie could look good behind them, for a short period of time at least.
Thought #3: Maple Leafs’ fans – us included – shouldn’t get too carried away. Woll posted the numbers he’s posted in the AHL for a reason. One never knows with goalies. Woll could be the real deal, or his bubble could burst the next game he plays.
Thought #4: The name Garret Sparks comes up a lot when speaking about Woll. Sparks came to the Maple Leafs during the 2015-16 season and initially looked good. Since he left the Maple Leafs in 2018-19, he’s only played in 27 NHL minutes with the Vegas Golden Knights and allowed two goals in that time. He’s now playing with the Ontario Reign in the AHL.
Thought #5: We have to consider that Woll might have chosen a different nickname for himself than “The Brick Woll.” Perhaps he should just go with the nickname “The Woll.” Like starter Jack Campbell who, when he makes a great save, hears the chant “Soup,” it would certainly lend itself to a better chant in “Wall.” Or, it could become a bit more poetic as in “All in all, he’s just another Brick in the Wall.” We think that would sound cool.
Item Three: Ondrej Kase Is Fearless: Is that Good?
Maple Leafs’ fans are quickly becoming Ondrej Kase fans because, in a word, he’s “fearless” on the ice. Really, who doesn’t love that drive? However, it’s tough not to think he might eventually hurt himself badly enough to be out of the game for a long time again.
We hope we’re wrong. We have read somewhere that, similar to Nick Robertson (but not Nick Ritchie, by the way), the Maple Leafs want Kase to calm his game down a bit. Is that even possible? Can players who play with that intensity simply turn it on and off?
It might be that players such as Kase and Roberston simply aren’t capable of slowing down. Here’s hoping that Kase can stay healthy. If he could, he could be a really valuable addition to the team this season. However, if Kase stays healthy and keeps playing like he has, could the team afford to keep him beyond this season?
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
The Maple Leafs only play a single game in five days before an upcoming back-to-back next weekend in Minnesota and Winnipeg. Given their schedule and their level of engagement, we’re guessing the team is a bit banged up. So a respite in their schedule is probably a good thing.
Nazem Kadri is coming to town on Wednesday with the Colorado Avalanche. He’s on a roll this season and is currently tied for fourth place in NHL points with 27 points. Could he be changing and adapting his game a bit?
Kadri has been known more as a goal-scorer than a playmaker throughout his career. Prior to last season, 46 percent of his points had been goals. Last season, and to this point this season, in 74 games he’s scored 18 goals but has added 41 assists. During that span, goals have only accounted for 30 percent of his total point production.
Unless we’re missing something, this is only the second time Kadri’s played in Toronto since his trade to Colorado. The only other time we found was on December 4, 2019. It will be fun to watch him play again.
[Note: I want to thank long-time Maple Leafs’ fan Stan Smith for collaborating with me on this post. Stan’s Facebook profile can be found here.]
The Old Prof (Jim Parsons, Sr.) taught for more than 40 years in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. He’s a Canadian boy, who has two degrees from the University of Kentucky and a doctorate from the University of Texas. He is now retired on Vancouver Island, where he lives with his family. His hobbies include playing with his hockey cards and simply being a sports fan – hockey, the Toronto Raptors, and CFL football (thinks Ricky Ray personifies how a professional athlete should act).
If you wonder why he doesn’t use his real name, it’s because his son – who’s also Jim Parsons – wrote for The Hockey Writers first and asked Jim Sr. to use another name so readers wouldn’t confuse their work.
Because Jim Sr. had worked in China, he adopted the Mandarin word for teacher (老師). The first character lǎo (老) means “old,” and the second character shī (師) means “teacher.” The literal translation of lǎoshī is “old teacher.” That became his pen name. Today, other than writing for The Hockey Writers, he teaches graduate students research design at several Canadian universities.
He looks forward to sharing his insights about the Toronto Maple Leafs and about how sports engages life more fully. His Twitter address is https://twitter.com/TheOldProf