Let me begin by saying that I really like Toronto Maple Leafs forward Nick Robertson. Since being promoted from the Marlies on November 6, Robertson has put up 5 points in 8 games (hockeydb.com), and played like he belongs in the NHL.
The fact that he has long been touted as a solid prospect and is finally showing some of that potential makes it the perfect time to trade him. The Toronto Maple Leafs need plenty of help on the blueline and have a limited pool of trade assets. But why give up a player that the organization has patiently nurtured for the last three years?
The single word answer to that question is “injuries”. Since being drafted by the Leafs in the 2nd round in 2019, Robertson has already suffered more than a career’s worth of injuries. Broken leg. Knee. Concussion. Groin. The most recent incident came last January when Robertson was shut down for the season due to shoulder surgery.
That injury came about as a result of an innocent looking body check from Matt Roy of the Los Angeles Kings. Unfortunately (and I hope that I’m wrong), it’s the type of injury that is just waiting to happen again to Robertson.
Toronto Maple Leafs Should Consider Trading Nick Robertson
The NHL is a tough workplace, and despite the best training, workouts, nutrition, etc, players get hurt often. Avoiding injuries is actually a skill that has to be learned at some point. Of course, bad luck can strike anyone at any time, but there are ways to shield yourself that minimize the chance of getting hurt.
A couple of examples on the Toronto Maple Leafs come to mind. First, we rarely see Mitch Marner getting hit hard, either in open ice or along the boards. That’s because, being a smallish skill forward, Marner had to learn to keep his head up and move quickly out of the way of checkers as soon as he began playing contact hockey. He never would have made it to the NHL otherwise.
The other example is Auston Matthews. Being a big guy (6’3″ 215 lbs) and the best player on the ice all that time growing up, Matthews never had to deal with battling against skilled grown men until turning pro. In his first season as a Leaf, Matthews got hit along the boards many times in awkward positions, and was lucky to escape serious injury. You simply don’t see that any more, as Matthews has learned to use body positioning to protect himself from the worst of collisions.
Back to Nick Robertson. I love his speed, his shot, his skating. You have to admire his perseverance, work ethic and attitude. I think he has the talent to be a good middle six forward. But watching him play, I cringe at least once per game when he’s knocked to the ice by a larger opponent.
Robertson is listed at 5’9″, 178 lbs. You can’t play the way he does, giving up several inches of height and 20-30 lbs of weight to most opponents. You will get hurt. Again. The fact that he hasn’t adjusted his playing style since his shoulder surgery tells me that won’t likely make those vital changes.
The Toronto Maple Leafs will need young, inexpensive forwards in the next couple of years as the big dollars continue to flow to Matthews, Marner and Nylander (perhaps). However, that role can be filled by the likes of Matthew Knies, Fraser Minton, Bobby McMann and Pontus Holmberg.
It makes sense to move a player who will likely have trouble staying healthy to prop up a defense corps that desperately needs help.