Toronto Maple Leafs: Wayne Simmonds loss a huge blow for player and team

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Wayne Simmonds (24). Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Toronto Maple Leafs forward Wayne Simmonds (24). Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports /

Wayne Simmonds is going to be a huge loss for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Now, I bet you didn’t think you would be reading that sentence but that is just how big an impact Wayne Simmonds has had on this Toronto Maple Leafs team, who have been red hot to start the 2020-21 NHL season with a 9-2-1 record that has put them on top of both the North Division and the NHL standings.

More from Puck Prose

Granted, Simmonds went his first six games in a Toronto jersey without recording a single point, but the power forward has always been a player who brings so much more to the table than just production. For starters, he is a real energy player that can spark his teammates with a single bone-crushing hit or a heavyweight tilt – as was the case on Thursday when he absolutely pummelled Vancouver Canucks defenseman Jordie Benn in what was a true throwback fight.

But Maple Leafs General Manager Kyle Dubas signed Simmonds to a one-year, $1.5 million contract in the offseason for the intangibles he brings to the table, like his wealth of experience, his leadership in the room on and off the ice and the fact that he is one of the most well-respected and well-liked players in the entire National Hockey League, which is still a very important thing in today’s game.

Wayne Simmonds (24)
Wayne Simmonds #24 (C) of the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images) /

Wayne Simmonds will be a tough, tough loss for the Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto also understood that, despite boasting enough firepower to sink a small fleet of battleships, coupled with a lineup top heavy with elite stars, this roster lacked grit, toughness and that snarl you still need in order to win in today’s NHL. This team has been exposed over the last couple of years for its lack of sandpaper finish, but Simmonds just brings that jam in abundance and it has certainly helped the class of 2020-21.

I mean, the veteran already has 19 hits on the year and his willingness to battle hard in the corners and in the dirty areas, provide a net front presence, engage in the dark arts of the game and just provide a physical presence for his team are qualities the Maple Leafs have lacked in recent years, and that kind of player will be even more vital come Playoff time with Toronto having a habit of imploding during the most important time of the year.

Plus, it was evident that Wayne Simmonds was just really hitting his stride with the Maple Leafs having recorded four goals in five games and five goals in his last six outings, including two goals in the 5-1 win over the Canucks on Saturday. The first goal came on the power play with the 32-year-old scoring down low, while his second goal was a tip-in on Mikko Lehtonen‘s shot from the point.

Wayne Simmonds (24)
Wayne Simmonds #24 of the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /

Those type of greasy goals are exactly why the Maple Leafs pursued Simmonds so aggressively during the offseason, and his ability to play in all situations, play on the power play and on the penalty kill and chip in with secondary scoring just tick all the boxes. Plus, logging an average of 11:03 of total ice time this year, having Simmonds on the roster just gives Head Coach Sheldon Keefe more flexibility when it comes to utilizing his star-powered lineup on a game-to-game basis.

Now, you wouldn’t call Simmonds a star and he isn’t a huge minute muncher nor will he put up a boatload of multi-point games, but you can’t understate just how big a blow it was for the Toronto Maple Leafs when the forward broke his wrist on Saturday against the Vancouver Canucks. As we mapped out above, he just brings so much to the table and he’s a real leader for this team and you can tell that his teammates love playing with and for him, his high-energy play just gets the rest of the team going and his mere presence ensures that opponents are less likely to take liberties with the likes of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander.

You also can’t put enough value on how proud and motivated Simmonds was to play for his hometown team, and his high-level of play recently saw him earn a promotion to the second-line alongside Nylander and John Tavares. He’s been one of the most productive forwards for the Maple Leafs as of late, but now they will need to adopt the next man-up mentality and rely on their depth to come through.

Next. Rapid talking points to keep an eye on tonight. dark

Sure, the Toronto Maple Leafs do have players that can step up and help to fill the void left by Wayne Simmonds when it comes to both role and production but, again, there aren’t too many players out there like Wayne Simmonds when it comes to his physical prowess on the ice, coupled with his ability to be a huge presence in the room and help to hold players accountable while also demanding more from each and every one of them. There is no doubt that losing a John Tavares, a Mitch Marner, a Auston Matthews or a Morgan Rielly to injury would hurt the Toronto Maple Leafs a hell of a lot more, but from establishing himself on the power play to starting to hit his stride offensively and all the other invaluable intangibles that he brings to the party, there is no denying that Wayne Simmonds is going to be a big miss for this team who have been off to a hot start, and it is also a huge blow for a player who was really starting to find his feet and flourish for his hometown team.