In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs Quick Hits, I’ll share some of the news of the past week or so. Tonight the Maple Leafs play their first preseason game. Welcome to the on-ice action of the NHL’s 2023-24 regular season.
Quick Hit One: Nick Robertson’s Uncertain Future
There is uncertainty surrounding young Nick Robertson’s future with the Maple Leafs. As a fan who hopes that players have a chance to find their game in the NHL almost as much as whether the Maple Leafs win, I have to wonder if the possibility of a change of scenery might benefit him.
Specifically, trading Robertson could make absolute sense because (a) he might be a valuable trade asset for the team and (b) there is an intriguing possibility of his joining his brother and making a family connection with the Dallas Stars. Jason Robertson, Nick’s big brother, is a star with the Stars. How good would it be for the Robertson family to have both boys playing on the same team?
Quick Hit Two: William Nylander Might Get Lots of Reps at Center
The Maple Leafs started their preseason camp with the surprise of making William Nylander the team’s third-line center. The talk of making Nylander a center has been around for quite a while. He was a center as a young prospect but hasn’t played much in that role since he’s jumped up to the NHL.
However, with John Tavares aging, could this be a good move for the team? The team now seems to be hoping that the line combinations will be:
Tyler Bertuzzi – Auston Matthews – Mitch Marner
Matthew Knies – John Tavares – Sam Lafferty
Nick Robertson – William Nylander – Max Domi
Calle Jarnkrok – David Kampf – Ryan Reaves
Quick Hit Three: Lightning Coach Jon Cooper Spins the Maple Leafs
The Maple Leafs seem to have one fan, even if it might be a bit of a strategy move. Tampa Bay Lightning’s coach Jon Cooper’s perspective of the Maple Leafs seems to be highly positive. He praises their talent. While he also acknowledges their playoff challenges, he believes they are on an upward trajectory.
While Cooper also emphasizes the competitiveness of the Atlantic Division, he notes that the Maple Leafs are a rising team.
Quick Hit Four: The Maple Leafs Prospects Had Success in the Prospect Tournament
The Maple Leafs’ prospects victory over the Detroit Red Wings prospects in the recent Traverse City tournament suggests that the team has a couple of strong young players who will rise through the system. Interestingly, an unsigned young player – Brandon Lisowsky – had a hat-trick performance.
However, both Easton Cowan and Fraser Minten contributed to the team’s success in big ways. Toronto Marlies coach John Gruden, who also coached the prospects, was impressed with the prospects’ performance.
Quick Hit Five: Ex-Maple Leafs Coach Mike Babcock Resigned from the Blue Jackets
It would seem that Mike Babcock’s time as an NHL coach is now history. He stepped down as head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets recently. The focus again was on concerns about Babcock’s conduct and past behaviour with players. There was an NHLPA investigation into the allegations.
It would be a long shot if Babcock ever coached again at any level.
The Bottom Line
I’m looking forward to how William Nylander plays this season. He’s been growing as a team leader, both on and off the ice (from what I’m hearing). That aspect of his play has been underrated. He’s on his contract season, and he could have another strong 40-goal season.
He’s a player to watch out for as the team engages in the regular season.