Toronto Maple Leafs: Wayne Simmonds to Shine in Bigger Role

CALGARY, AB - JANUARY 24: Wayne Simmonds #24 (C) of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrates with teammates Mitch Marner #16 and Auston Matthews #34 after scoring against the Calgary Flames during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on January 24, 2021 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
CALGARY, AB - JANUARY 24: Wayne Simmonds #24 (C) of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrates with teammates Mitch Marner #16 and Auston Matthews #34 after scoring against the Calgary Flames during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on January 24, 2021 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images) /
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Wayne Simmonds is not only a Toronto Maple Leafs fan-favourite but he’s starting to earn the trust of Sheldon Keefe.

When the 32-year-old signed a one-year $1.5M contract last summer, there were many people critical of the signing, but I definitely wasn’t one of them. I’ve always been a fan of Simmonds and couldn’t care less what the analytics said about this player, he’s fun to watch.

I’m not saying that Wayne’s last name should be changed to Gretzky but I’ve been incredibly impressed with his play as of late. There’s an energy in his game that makes me want to run a marathon because every time he steps on the ice he’s dong something exciting and making the team better.

You can show me all of the analytical numbers in the world suggesting that this player should be a healthy scratch every night, but it doesn’t measure what’s important, which is that his coaches and teammates believe in him.

"“On the road trip, he was a real standout for us…He’s got lots of jump. He looks quick and he’s on the puck. He’s competitive. He’s around the net. He found a way to score in three straight games for us, which has given him a little extra confidence and a little extra boost,” said Sheldon Keefe (via: TSN.ca)"

Getting promoted to the second-line isn’t anything new for Simmonds. For most of his career, he was a first or second-line player in Philadelphia. Sharing a line with Claude Giroux and Brayden Schenn most nights and was even a 30-goal scorer in that role, so sharing the ice with high-end talent shouldn’t be anything to worry about.

I’m not expecting Simmonds to score every night with William Nylander and John Tavares, but I wouldn’t be shocked if he gets on the board early. Speed isn’t going to be an issue for him and his net-front presence and ability to retrieve the puck is going to provide an element that Jimmy Vesey wasn’t excelling at.

Nylander shared a similar narrative, commenting on Simmonds yesterday:

"“He’s fearless….He works really hard. He’s got a lot of energy all the time, which is fun…He’s a heavy body in front of the net and wins pucks back and is a great net-front guy. We had some nice chemistry in practice today.” (via: TSN.ca)"

dark. Next. Time to Trade Travis Dermott

I have no issues eating my words if this doesn’t work, but I think the energy he provides will help the Toronto Maple Leafs offense tremendously and provide some extra energy. Let’s hope I’m right.