Lack of Hustle Reignites Concern Around William Nylander Extension

Best and worst of star winger on display versus Vancouver Canucks.

Toronto Maple Leafs v Vancouver Canucks
Toronto Maple Leafs v Vancouver Canucks / Derek Cain/GettyImages
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The camera doesn't lie. During the second intermission of Saturday night's game against the Vancouver Canucks, the HNIC panel had a less-than-kind take on the effort from the Toronto Maple Leafs William Nylander.

This is not the first time during Nylander's tenure with the Leafs that he has come under scrutiny. A similar firestorm followed after this play against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs love a blue-collar work ethic. Bobby Baun, Borje Salming, Tiger Williams, Darcy Tucker, Tie Domi, Doug Gilmour, and Wendel Clark are past favorites because they left it all on the line while playing.

Larry Murphy and Phil Kessel became the scapegoats of fans because of their salaries and their perceived lack of gumption.

On three different Canuck goals, Nylander showed strained initiative. It negated his offensive contributions and reignited a concern with his recent contract extension.

Lack of Hustle Reignites Concern With Nylander's Extension

The first came on the Canucks third goal. Nylander was not fully engaged on the backcheck and a few seconds later, Connor Garland beat goaltender Martin Jones.

Next, came a lackadaisical back pass deep in his zone, which was quickly turned into the go-ahead goal for the Canucks before the second-period horn sounded.

The third, and perhaps most disturbing egregious play was his half-speed backcheck from the Canucks side of the ice.

Morgan Rielly, the player who logs the most minutes and probably most miles during games, steamrolled by Nylander and was the first Leaf to put back pressure on the attacking Canuck player.

As the panel pointed out, Rielly is a strong skater, but he should not be kicking up ice chunks into Nylander's face if the appropriate effort was given by the latter.

To be fair, Nylander's two beautiful wrist-shot goals were a big part of getting the Leafs back into the hockey game in a more inspired second period.

Also, this season those questionable effort plays have been fewer and farther between for Nylander. His dogged determination in some earlier games resulted in him single-handedly winning games for the Leafs.

He had been a model of consistency before signing his extension. Since signing his new deal, Nylander's play has been more sporadic.

That, of course, was a big worry from Leafs management and fans during negotiations. Was Nylander playing at such a high level because he was in a contract year?

It's probably a coincidence that he has had a drop in play since his extension was announced. For Nylander and fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs, the hope is his enigmatic play against the Canucks was a blip.

New-found riches put a target of expectations on players in the modern-day world of the salary cap where fans know what every player earns.

Effort is one thing that a player can control. Lack of it is something any team's fans will not tolerate.

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The best of Nylander needs to override the worst. It's up to him to confirm the Leafs faith in him.