The Toronto Maple Leafs will be without power forward Wayne Simmonds for six weeks, the team confirmed on Monday.
Simmonds appeared to have suffered the injury after taking a puck to the area in the third period of the team’s 5-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday.
Toronto has powered through injuries up front after Nick Robertson (knee) and Joe Thornton (rib) were sidelined earlier in the season. But the loss of Simmonds and his net-front presence can have a downside impact on the team’s league-leading power play.
“Between Simmonds and Jumbo (Thornton), those are two guys that have been playing down there in the middle,” Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said on Monday. “We’ll have (Zach) Hyman play in Simmonds spot and we’ll have (John) Tavares in the spot that Thornton and (Alex) Kerfoot had been playing down the middle.”
Simmonds has three of his five goals this season while on the power play and he has accounted for 20 percent of the team’s goals with the man advantage. A deeper dive into the stats show that Simmonds isn’t merely just getting to the net, but he has the offensive touch need to score.
Per Sportlogiq, among 237 forwards this season that have skated a minimum of 10 minutes on the power play, Simmonds ranks second in the league in inner slot shots with 0.67 per two minutes. He ranks fifth in the league fifth in the league in inner slot goals with 0.25 per two minutes. Simmonds also placed sixth in slot shots per two minutes at 0.67 with all of his slot shots on the power play coming in the inner slot.
Simmonds’ ability to create traffic and jump on any pucks near him will be difficult to replace.
The combination of moving Hyman into Simmonds’ spot will be an interesting experiment. Before this season, Hyman had just six points on the power play.
Keefe suggested that they may move around the units as the situation unfolds. But as Toronto figures it out, it wouldn’t come as a surprise if the power play begins to dip a little below its 38.5 efficiency heading into Monday’s game.
There’s also the dressing room effect.
Signed to a one-year contract worth $1.5 million in October, Simmonds was brought in by the Maple Leafs along with a group of veterans to bring up the mood and energy level of the locker room.
Different players have taken turns gushing joy about playing with Simmonds.
“Simmer’s probably told me about five times, ‘don’t be afraid to shoot it at my chest,'” Marner said about Simmonds two weeks ago. “And he’s not lying, either.”
No doubt comments like that have helped with the team’s power play.
“He’s fun to be around in the locker room,” Alex Kerfoot said. “Just the physicality and that mentality, we’re going to miss that.”
Thornton and Robertson nearing return?
The good news for Toronto is Joe Thornton and Nick Robertson took part in the team’s morning skate ahead of team’s third straight game against the Canucks.
Although Thornton occupied Simmonds’ spot on a line with John Tavares and William Nylander, the veteran is ineligible to return to the lineup until Feb. 15 against the Ottawa Senators at the earliest due to long term injury provisions in the NHL that require a player sit out a minimum of 10 games and 24 days.
Robertson could come off long-term injured reserve as soon as Wednesday’s game against the Montreal Canadiens. But he didn’t skate with a line on Monday and spent time with the extras following the skate, suggesting a return for the forward is not imminent.
Sandin makes season debut
The Maple Leafs will go with 11 forwards and seven defensemen against the Canucks on Monday. Rasmus Sandin will finally get a chance to get in the lineup as the seventh defenseman.
“It’s not going to be a lot (ice time or shifts) for him today,” Keefe said of Sandin. “Mikko (Lehtonen) will be part of the regular six rotation and Rasmus will be there to get shifts here and there.
Travis Dermott is still day-to-day with a leg injury.