LOCAL BOY! GRIT! LEADERSHIP!
Those are all good things. All things that will serve the Leafs well, but should ultimately be considered the cherry on top with what Toronto has brought in by signing Wayne Simmonds to a one year deal @ $1.5M.
There’s still a matter of what the Leafs have in Simmonds.
Okay, so last year wasn’t a strong showing for Wayne.
Okay, so the last three years haven’t been strong ones for Simmonds. Maybe it’s time we acknowledge this really was about grit, leadership, and the excitement of a home town kid playing for the Maple Leafs. There’s nothing wrong with that as long as the Leafs are careful about where Simmonds slots into the lineup.
|Season||Age||GP||G||A||PTS||PIM||EV G||PP G||S%||ATOI||HIT|
|data via hockey-reference.com|
There’s the hit column, as pronounced as ever. The declining goal production isn’t ideal, but that shooting percentage in 2019-20 speaks to a player that was unlucky or in a poorly cast role. The time on ice is putting Simmonds in a third line situation, which is likely where he’ll start in Toronto, despite the fact that the numbers would place him firmly on the fourth line in reality. The problem with that is a tough fourth line doesn’t necessarily make the Leafs tougher to play against. It makes it so Simmonds can beat up on other fourth liners. And while that might be the reality of his tenure with the Leafs, there seems to be a desire to start him higher in the lineup.
The usage for Simmonds seems like it will be very situation, and when you consider Robertson, Barabanov, Spezza, and either Johnsson or Mikheyev will be amongst the bottom six wingers, Simmonds ice time could be dependent on the opposition.
Against the Bruins, Simmonds is likely a 3rd liner. Probably a third liner in the playoffs as well. Simmonds playing a Tuesday night game against the Red Wings, he might slot in on the fourth line instead.
If the Leafs are struggling with the forecheck in the top six, it might not be shocking to see Simmonds have a few shifts up in the lineup to help create room for the Leafs core, and certainly on the second power play unit he’ll be the net presence that makes the Leafs marginally less dependent on the top unit for all of their special teams success.
Last season Simmonds averaged 2:36 of power play time on some bad Buffalo and New Jersey teams. He wasn’t as productive as other years, but also both of those teams managed to miss the playoffs in a year when 24 out of 31 teams had time in the post season. It’s entirely reasonable to expect that he’ll be better than the 5 PP goals he had last season couple of seasons, depending on the makeup of the rest of that unit.
As for Simmonds other intangibles, well, Simmonds is proud to be coming home. He wants to win in his hometown, and he has a work ethic that is going to push his teammates to be better as well. And yes, he will do his best to give them a bit more space on the ice as well.
While the numbers may say buyer beware, our hearts are wide open to Wayne Simmonds on the Leafs. The team friendly nature of the contract makes Wayne a risk worth taking, and it will be exciting to see him in the Leafs lineup on opening night.