In this post, I’m going to offer two random and heartful thoughts that have come about in light of the recent trade the Toronto Maple Leafs made on Monday. Heading out of Toronto was Swiss forward Denis Malgin; and, coming from the Colorado Avalanche was Dryden Hunt.
That trade will impact both those players, but it will likely impact Wayne Simmonds as well.
Heartful Thought One: Koodos to Kyle Dubas for Taking Care of Players
It was pretty clear where Denis Malgin probably fit best on the team. He was a highly-skilled player with an offensive upside. His best role would have been in the top six somewhere. When he didn’t deliver in that role with the Maple Leafs, he was moved to the Colorado Avalanche. Good luck to him there.
For all the business side of his job, Maple Leafs’ general manager seems to have a heart. I appreciate the loyalty he’s shown to players (even those who leave).
Dubas’ Handshake Agreements
Yesterday, I wrote about Josh Leivo and Alexander Barabanov. However, I’m also guessing that Dubas had a similar “hand-shake” deal with Finnish defenseman Mikko Lehtonen who left the KHL to come to the Maple Leafs. He didn’t make it with the team and Dubas moved him to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
That is not a bad reputation to have as a general manager. If players (and their agents) who sign with the Maple Leafs believe the organization will take good care of them, that positive reputation will soon become known around the NHL.
First, it seems like the right thing to do – even in a professional sport. Second, it helps entice talented players to the organization. In both ways, it pays dividends.
Heartful Thought Two: It’s Tough When an NHL Career Is Ending
I believe the trade for Dryden Hunt spells the end of the line for one of the great NHL warriors Wayne Simmonds. Perhaps Simmonds’ ship had sailed before the Hunt trade, or perhaps both somehow are connected. In either case, unless there’s some need I don’t see right now (such as a key injury), I believe we’ve seen the last of The Wayne Train in a Maple Leafs’ uniform.
Personally, now moving toward 80 years old myself; and, after having a wonderful career as an academic and teacher who’s had the good fortune to have worked all over the world, I know a little bit about how ending a career feels. It’s tough to move from being “someone” to being “less than someone.”
I would guess it would be tough for star hockey players whose skills and celebrity created a great space and solid relationships for them. That’s why it’s been hard for Jason Spezza to quit, or Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, and now Wayne Simmonds.
With Dryden coming in, Simmonds seems like the odd man out. He’ll likely be placed on waivers again. That has to be tough. I don’t know which might be more difficult – to be put on waivers in the first place or to be put on waivers and NOT be picked up.
Simmonds’ Play Has Been Desperate Lately
I believe I can see the desperation in Simmonds’ play. There’s no dissing Simmonds for his play, but he’s making bad choices because (I believe) he’s desperate to matter and add value to the team.
Less than two weeks ago, during a December 10th game against the Calgary Flames, after the Flames’ Nikita Zadorov drew a penalty for cross-checking Auston Matthews, Simmonds stepped in to throw a punch. Simmonds was also penalized for roughing, and the power play was negated. On the ensuing four-on-four that followed, the Flames scored.
From what I saw, Simmonds was so anxious to show his value to the team by sticking up for his teammate that he crossed the line. He was not thinking wisely about the context. There are times to stick up for your teammates, but that was not the time.
It was a bad decision, but I understand it. It was similar to Kyle Clifford’s actions during last season’s playoff round. Clifford, too, is another aging warrior who has a physical streak. He was penalized early in a game. It was untimely, to say the least.
Both players wanted to contribute so badly that they lost focus. I feel for these aging warriors. Sure NHL hockey is a professional sport and the players are well-paid. However, it doesn’t make it any less personal.
It’s tough to reach the end of your career. Congratulations Wayne Simmonds on having such a stellar career.