In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs Quick Hits, I’ll share some of the news that’s emerging from the team during the past week.
Quick Hit One: Nick Robertson Is on the Bubble
Although Nick Robertson has had a solid preseason, except for not scoring a lot of goals, he was assigned to the Toronto Marlies. The competition has been tough during preseason, and he’s faced a lot of obstacles in making the Maple Leafs’ roster. Although he’s likely to discouraged being moved down, it could help him re-hone his offense with lots of playing time and coaching.
Robertson has done a number of things better this preseason, but he seems to still be hesitant to get his shot off. Those are the kind of things that might be worked on best during some time with the Marlies. In my opinion, I think he’ll have a solid NHL career and I hope it’s with the Maple Leafs. However, I also think he needs to learn better how to better leverage his strengths, particularly his powerful shot.
Perhaps the AHL as the most ideal environment for his development. Good luck to him.
Quick Hit Two: Matt Murray Really Was Injured
Today it was reported that Maple Leafs goalie Matt Murray underwent bilateral hip surgery. The surgery and rehab will keep him out of action for at least six to eight months. Murray, who was traded from the Ottawa Senators to the Maple Leafs in July 2022, had a tough 2022-23 season with the team. His injuries resulted in a drop in performance.
He just couldn’t stay in the game. Despite starting the season strong, he faced multiple injuries and finished the regular season with a 14-8-2 record and a .901 save percentage.
What has been so interesting to me has been the reaction of some fans. Many believed that (a) the Maple Leafs were lying about the severity of his injury to keep salary cap space or that (b) Murray was lying to keep himself earning his full salary even though they believed he really could play if he wanted.
Sadly, they were wrong. Having had hip surgery myself, it can be a tough go. Good luck in your rehab.
Quick Hit Three: Look for the Two Johns (Klingberg and Tavares) to Team Up Often
If John Klingberg gets healthy and can do a decent job of quarterbacking the team’s first power-play unit, one of the beneficiaries will be John Tavares. One thing that Klingberg can do well is fire the puck on net from the point. One thing that Tavares can do well is stand in front of the net converting rebounds into goals. Tavares has great hand/eye coordination, which translates into his unique goal-scoring ability, particularly in close-range situations.
The introduction of defenseman Klingberg and his power-play prowess could become a match made in heaven. Fans should expect some potential synergy between Tavares and Klingberg on the power play. If it works, they should also anticipate increased goal-scoring output for Tavares and a stronger power-play unit for the Maple Leafs.
Quick Hit Four: 6 Maple Leafs Players Hit the Waiver Wires on Sunday
We should hear today which Maple Leafs players might not make it through waivers. The six who were placed on waivers include Max Lajoie (headed back to the AHL’s Marlies), William Lagesson (also headed back to the Marlies), Kyle Clifford (who will likely make it back to the Marlies), Dylan Gambrell (also headed to the Marlies), and Simon Benoit (also hoping to be sent to the Marlies).
The case of goalie Martin Jones is a bit different. He was waived because Toronto’s goaltending tandem has been decided with Ilya Samsonov and Joseph Woll. Whether or not he’ll be picked up by another team is interesting. The expectation is that he might be.
Quick Hit Five: Sam Lafferty Traded to the Vancouver Canucks
While Sam Lafferty showed well, the Maple Leafs had no salary-cap space to keep him. So they traded him to the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for a fifth-round pick. It was better than losing him for nothing. Lafferty should have a bigger role with the Canucks and should add to their goal of increasing their team’s defense.