In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs Quick Hits, I’ll take a look at some of the events occurring around the Maple Leafs and the players who play on the team. First, I’ll take a look at newly-signed defenseman Mark Giordano and share one of the reasons he said he stayed with the Maple Leafs rather than look anywhere else for hockey employment.
Second, I’ll take a look at the possibility of young Nick Robertson making a Maple Leafs roster when training camp ends this fall. Finally, I’ll look at William Nylander’s trip to Finland to play in the IIHF World Championships. I’ll share how he’s doing there, as Team Sweden prepares to play Team Canada later today.
Quick Hit #1: Mark Giordano Thinks Coach Sheldon Keefe Is Solid
There’s always worry about the possibility of organizational changes in the wake of yet another early Toronto exit from the postseason. Yet again the team was eliminated in the first round. Two key members of the Maple Leafs’ management receive the bulk of the criticism. These are Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas and head coach Sheldon Keefe.
Although in my reading most fans believe that Dubas should be the first one out the door, because they feel that Dubas and Keefe are joined at the hip, they don’t believe Keefe should be far behind Dubas as he leaves.
As a result, it’s interesting to hear the take of a long-time veteran on what he thinks of Keefe as a head coach. Giordano is quite clear. For him, the work of coach Keith is one of the reasons he stayed in Toronto. Giordano thinks very highly of head coach Keefe. (from “Mark Giordano sees coach Sheldon Keefe as key Maple Leafs’ asset moving forward,” Terry Koshan, Toronto Sun, 24/05/2022)
Giordano noted that “Being here for almost 30 games (27 in total), his bench management, the way he sees the game, I agree with a lot of his theories on the game, the way he sees it from the bench and the way he sees it in video sessions.”
Giordano’s take on Keefe was a tipping point that worked to convince Giordano to re-sign with the Maple Leafs after the team acquired him from Seattle. This past week, Giordano signed a two-year, $1.6 million extension with the Maple Leafs.
Quick Hit #2: Nick Robertson Will Get His Chance in 2022-23
The same day that general manager Kyle Dubas held exit interviews with the Maple Leafs’ roster as the team shut its doors for the summer, he also met with Marlies’ players. His message was that, because there weren’t likely to be key young players hiding the weeds this summer (someone like Michael Bunting, who’s a Calder Trophy finalist), the Maple Leafs will have some NHL jobs up for grabs during fall’s training camp.
Chief among the players who’ll be looked at seriously is Nick Roberston. Robertson has been on the minds of Maple Leafs’ fans for a couple of seasons, but he’s still only 20 years of age. One of his issues is that he can’t seem to escape injury. Part of that is simply the ramped-up way he plays the game.
Nick Robertson had a promising season with the #Marlies down in the AHL.
He’s shown enough there and now deserves an extended look with the Maple Leafs this fall.
— Nick Barden (@nickbarden) May 22, 2022
There’s going to be a good chance that Robertson can win a job this season with the big club. Again, that might have more to do with his injury status than his skill. Robertson just can’t seem to stay healthy. He’s only played 26 games last season with the Toronto Marlies and only 10 with the Maple Leafs.
If Ilya Mikheyev departs to another team as a free-agent signing, Robertson will likely be penciled in for a chance to see if he can handle a top-six role with the team. He’s getting better with more experience.
One thing Marlies’ coach Greg Moore noted was that Robertson has improved his shot selection this season. Moore noted that “One thing he elevated was his shot selection.” This season, Robertson “was a lot more selective in getting into the right areas, possessing the puck or extending the possession to get those better looks, to get those higher quality chances.” (from “The Leafs are going to need help from within. Here are the candidates,” Kevin McGran, Toronto Star, 25/05/2022).
I’m anxious to see what Robertson can do when he has a good chance.
Quick Hit #3: William Nylander Gives Team Sweden an Immediate Lift
When the Maple Leafs were eliminated by the Tampa Bay Lightning, William Nylander traveled to Finland to join Team Sweden in the World Championships. He’s only played two games with the team, but he gave them an immediate value.
During a recent 1-0 Team Sweden win over Team Latvia, Nylander scored the only goal on a second-period power play to carry his team to the victory. In his first game, not long after arriving, he was instrumental in beating Team Norway 7-1 by also scoring a goal and adding two assists as his team won. Team Sweden has won both games since Nylander shows up and goes against Team Canada today.
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