A couple of weeks ago now, I wrote a blog Toronto Maple Leafs, GM Kyle Dubas: Charting a New Course where I discussed the importance of the Maple Leafs and more specifically GM Kyle Dubas need to change course to round out the roster as we headed into the 2021 season.
I made the case that very quickly into Free Agency that we would get a good indication if GM Dubas had changed course and well it didn’t long into Free Agency to get our first signs that change was coming, the grit and sand paper that the roster lacked was added to the roster with the signing of Wayne Simmonds.
Wayne won’t necessarily be looked to drive the offence like in seasons past, but I expect after an extended off season to heal all that nagged him that he should reach about 10-15 goals, but where he will be called upon a lot is in the way of setting the tone for games. This should allow for the Leafs top players some more breathing room on the ice with players on opposing teams taking less liberties as happened in seasons past.
Wayne will also be a very vocal person in the room, and with his experience and work ethic which should rub off positively on this relatively young roster this upcoming season is another huge plus to this signing. Since then we have seen the additions of Zach Bogosian, Joey Anderson (by most scouting assessments a Zach Hyman clone) in addition to incumbents Jake Muzzin, Zach Hyman, this roster has upped its grit level with still a long off season to go.
The addition of TJ Broadie may not scream grit, as that isn’t necessarily his style of game but what he does well is his ability to get into shooting lanes, his ability to play calmly in his own end which is reflected in his shot suppression stats. So for a team notorious for giving up too many high quality chances each night, this bodes well for whoever is in net at any given night.
Overall, I am willing to give these changes the benefit of the doubt, hard to judge their effectiveness until the games start, but I am already hearing the talking heads on sports talk radio about Simmonds injury history or Bogosian’s rough start in Buffalo last year.
For example in today’s First Up with Landsberg and Colaiacovo, Poulin mentioned how great the signing of Josh Anderson was in Montreal (no mention of his shoulder injury), but immediately pivoted to Toronto and it was like Simmonds is all but on the sidelines due to injury, same for Bogosian.
It is funny how injuries, cap issues and anything else that can go wrong, will go wrong in Toronto and only in Toronto. There has been little talk on cap issues facing the NY Islanders for example, with the trade of Toews to Colorado putting their cap issues centre stage and with a little more than $8.9 million dollars available to them, they still need to sign Barzal, Ryan Pulock, Adam Pelech and Andy Greene. But cap issues and crunching numbers only applies to Dubas and the Maple Leafs.
Pardon my quick rant, but you can’t help but think that our media has pivoted themselves from a real source of information to quick hits and click bait. I think these two issues above were more specifically amplified as a way to be critical of Dubas, the fact that Dubas has acquired the grit and intangibles that were lacking and didn’t take away from the core of the roster is another huge win for the young GM. This must be getting under the skin of those who didn’t think it was possible.
Do I think the Leafs are done? Not by a mile, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them flip some of their depth on defence to acquire one more additional experienced defenceman (Mackenzie Weeger/Josh Manson) to help fill out the top four.
Inclosing, what I can say with certainty is that the Maple Leafs are a better team than they were when they made their early playoff exit. That in itself for the present time is a huge win!