I love that Ryan Reaves is on the Toronto Maple Leafs this season, but at the end of the day, his presence won’t be a difference-maker in the playoffs.
It doesn’t bring me any joy to be the person to hate on Reaves and what he brings to the Toronto Maple Leafs, but we’ve seen this song and dance before. The team has brought in tough guys who have helped in regular season games, but by the time the playoffs come around, they don’t make a difference.
Let’s look back to the 2021 season when Wayne Simmonds joined the roster.
I know Simmonds wasn’t a heavyweight fighter like Reaves, but he averaged over 100 PIM’s per year and wasn’t afraid to drop the gloves. In fact, in his first game against the Montreal Canadiens, while the team was trailing, he fought Ben Chariot, sparking the Leafs to come back and win the game 5-4 in overtime.
Does that sound familiar to you?
Reaves Addition Won’t Change Toronto Maple Leafs Playoff Results
Reaves fought in his first game against the Canadiens, while the team was losing, and the Leafs eventually came back and won the game 6-5 in a shootout.
After the Simmonds fight in Game 1 against Montreal, here’s what Morgan Rielly said about the Wayne Train (via: Sportsnet).
"“It was awesome…What Wayne brings to this group, he’s been doing that in his career for a long time. It’s incredibly valuable.”"
As for Reaves, head coach Sheldon Keefe said the following about his addition after the team’s opener (via: Globe & Mail).
"“Reaves has been tremendous in the time he has been here….The presence that he has and the life and energy that he brings is amazing. To me he has played this role probably better than anyone in the league for a long time. To have a player of that stature is great.”"
Simmonds and Reaves are both fantastic people and players who are great in the dressing room, but look how similar those quotes are. Kyle Dubas already tried to bring in a player to play this role and it didn’t make a difference when the playoffs started.
Reaves Is Great But Won’t Be a Difference Maker
The Toronto Maple Leafs still have a great chance at finally lifting the cup for the first time since 1967 this season, but the five minutes Reaves plays each night in the playoffs aren’t going to be the reason why they do it. It’s going to be because Auston Matthews scores a big goal or because Ilya Samsonov makes a crucial stop.
I’m not trying to say that the Reaves addition was a terrible signing and that he should be sent to the American Hockey League or anything, but I think we need to realize that a fight in the regular season is not going to change anything. It’s fun and entertaining, which is a huge bonus, but I can’t see a world where it’s tied 1-1 in the third period of Game 7 and Reaves is all of a sudden someone who changes the momentum of a game.
The 36 year-old has played on some great teams, like the Vegas Golden Knights and New York Rangers, who both reached Conference Finals with him, but he hasn’t been someone to help guide a team to a Stanley Cup Final.
It’s not even as much of a dig on him, but more to the fact that hockey is such a random sport that one forward doesn’t really make a difference. The only player who has any affect on the outcome of a game in the playoffs is a goaltender, so unless Reaves can strap on the pads and play net, then he’s not going to change any result.
Like I said before, I’m a Reaves fan and am happy to see him in the blue-and-white, but we need to stop glorifying his position like he’s really going to change anything.