There’s one more day until the start of the 2023-24 regular season for the Toronto Maple Leafs, and one of the interesting narratives of the season will be watching to see what Ryan Reaves will bring to this team. Two things that he was signed to bring are in the title of this post – grit and confidence. However, he’ll also bring protection to the players.
Remembering Panthers Radko Gudas and Maple Leafs Joseph Woll
Maple Leafs hockey fans, similar to all fans, are drawn to players who bring excitement and energy to the ice. That can be in many ways – scoring game-winning goals, delivering crushing hits, reading an opponent’s breakout pass, turning the puck around for a short-handed goal, or even dropping the gloves when needed.
Reaves has a chance to become an immediate fan favourite on this Maple Leafs team. That will be especially true when he comes to the rescue of one of his teammates who’s being bullied or intimidated by an opposition player. Then, Reaves stands poised to make a thundering impact.
During a preseason media scrum about a month ago at the Leafs and Legends Charity Golf Classic, Reaves was asked about what has become a telling meme that represents the 2023 playoffs. It captured Florida Panthers defenseman Radko Gudas shouting in the face of Maple Leafs goaltender Joseph Woll. That night, there was no Reaves on the Maple Leafs roster.
But Reaves is pretty clear about his response. He noted, “I’d like to see him try it. It would be fun.”
You Have to Believe Reaves Will Put His Money Where His Mouth Is
Perhaps this sounds like bravado, but Reaves understands his role well. While no one expects him to become the second coming of Tie Domi (even if Domi’s son Max now plays for the Blue & White), still having a player like Reaves on the ice and in the dressing room can work wonders for a team’s confidence and camaraderie. While this is a “thing” that fans in the stands might not fully appreciate, the players on the ice certainly do.
When the Maple Leafs signed Reaves to a three-year contract worth $1.3 million AAV, it raised some eyebrows among fans. After all, it’s not uncommon for effective fourth-line players – even if they are big and tough – to sign for league minimum salaries. However, if Reaves can fulfill his role, his presence could be invaluable to the team.
Expect him to do his best to try. He knows the deal.
Reaves Is More than Just a Hockey Player
Reaves isn’t just a hockey player; he’s more. He’ll be a personality in Toronto – the largest city in Canada. Known for his boisterous on-ice demeanour, he’s the kind of player who can inject much-needed energy into a dressing room that (from what we have heard slip through the cracks) could use a boost. Part of his job description includes standing up for his teammates. The second part is working to instill a sense of confidence in his squad.
As the Maple Leafs enter regular-season play, fans should expect Reaves to bring a level of grit and swagger to the team. Although this attitude can’t be quantified by statistics, the first regular-season game is tomorrow. We’ll soon see if it helps the team win more games.
Fans should keep an eye on Ryan Reaves. He might just prove that his $1.3 million annual salary has been worth every penny regarding the intangibles he brings to the team.