Toronto Maple Leafs William Nylander is a perfect example of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
The series thus far between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning has been brilliant one night, then horrendous the next night for Leafs fans. Toronto dominated the ice during Game 1 and Game 3, but the Lightning have bounced backed tremendously after each loss.
One of the most fascinating players for the Leafs right now is William Nylander.
Nylander finished with 34 goals and 80 points, making it the most successful season of his career, similarly to his teammates Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, who also had career-years.
Toronto Maple Leafs May Have to Trade Nylander This Offseason
During Game 4’s loss against the Lightning, we saw both sides of Nylander, as per the previous Jekyll and Hyde reference.
We saw a player who scored a wonderful goal, tipping a shot from Matthews on the power-play, and then we saw him rip home a hard slap-shot on a two-on-one.
However, we also saw a player who looks scared to play playoff hockey. A player who doesn’t want to engage at all physically and will do whatever he can to make sure he doesn’t get hurt.
We’ve seen this countless times in the playoffs, but anytime Nylander is about to get hit or there’s a chance that a physical play is going to happen, he gets out of the way and essentially allows the other team to get the puck.
The playoffs are all about winning puck-battles, being physical and using that toughness to wear down your opponent. Instead, Nylander is scared to engage in any physical contact, gifts the opposition the puck and skates off like nothing happened.
You don’t notice the little plays like that as much during the regular season because the game isn’t as fast and physical, but in the playoffs, it’s incredibly noticeable and it’s disappointing.
The problem with sitting Nylander or playing him less ice-time is the fact that he’s just so offensively gifted. He’s a top-six forward on any team in the league and his offensive prowess can lift this team to victory. However at the same time, his unwillingness to battle in the corner is costing this team every time he steps on the ice.
Someone who Nylander draws comparison’s to is Phil Kessel, but even when Kessel was getting criticized for his lack of defense, or physicality back in the day, he still would stick a player or a punch a guy in a scrum. Nylander seems like a player who wouldn’t smack a bee if it stung his entire family.
If the Toronto Maple Leafs lose this series and Nylander’s offensive output doesn’t outweigh his embarrassing lack of physicality, then he shouldn’t be on this team anymore.
I know it’s tough to find a point-per-game player at $6.9M, but I’d take a player with half as much skill than Nylander who’s willing to go to war, because those are the type of players who win in the playoffs and Nylander clearly isn’t that player right now.