Free Kadri, lose Ennis and more Leafs observations
It’s still early, but the Toronto Maple Leafs so far are full of surprises – some perplexing
No, it’s not going to be 7-6 every night.
The NHL will soon settle down, as it does every year, and the wild shootout that happened Sunday night between the Leafs and Blackhawks will not be a regular feature of the league this season. To some — those who think goals and more goals aren’t entertaining — that’s a relief. To others who wish the NHL was a lot more like 25 years ago, the last time the league averaged more than seven goals every game, that’s a disappointment.
For the Leafs, it’s fair to say all three of their games — two overtime wins and a loss — have been very different. This is a team that’s still getting settled in.
Still, there are observations that can be made. Here are some of them:
The most noticeable characteristic about John Tavares so far (aside from the four goals) is that he seems completely unfamiliar with the lazy shift or partial effort.
Seriously, this guy doesn’t
take a shift off, and when he loses the puck it’s like somebody stole his wallet. That Tavares was able to sculpt this “full-out effort every shift” philosophy during all those lost years on Long Island, years when he could have become a selfish player, is a testament to his work ethic.
The most perplexing lineup move was the installation of Tyler Ennis as Auston Matthews’ right-winger for the first 2-1/2 games. Ennis is trying to piece his career back
together, which is great. But it was odd to see him as William Nylander’s replacement alongside Matthews while Connor Brown and Kasperi Kapanen, both of whom have been waiting for higher profile offensive roles, didn’t get that chance.
Babcock is going to have to find more work for Nazem Kadri. Fifteen minutes a night is just not enough for a back-toback 32-goal scorer. It’s early, but right now Kadri is averaging more than a minute less in
ice time compared to last year, and three to four shifts fewer a game. He’s got more to give, but needs the time to give it.
Don’t be too hard on Garret Sparks. Well, not yet. But it’s worth remembering that, at 25, he’s learning a new role, that of the NHL backup. Sparks is used to being a starter, and he’s going to need some time to figure this out. Read all 10 of Cox’s observations at thestar.com/leafs
Free agent addition John Tavares is giving the Maple Leafs their money’s worth with relentless effort and results, Damien Cox writes.