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Do the Maple Leafs and Michael Bunting Have a Problem?

The postseason is coming and the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Michael Bunting is having trouble with the officiating. How can that issue be fixed?

The Toronto Maple Leafs Michael Bunting has been drawing the attention of officials due to his aggressive style of play. In a recent game, he received a 10-minute misconduct penalty. There’s no doubt that Buntiing is an edgy player, who’s yappy on the ice.

Perhaps he’s upsetting the officials? Do they have it out for him? Does he need to clean up his act?

At the same time, Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe believes that Bunting has been taking a lot of hits from opposing players lately. As well, Keefe hints that he believes Bunting has been treated unfairly by officials. Still, Keefe also knows that Bunting needs to perfect his on-ice role and stay focused on playing his game.

Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Samsonov, Murray, Bunts & McMann

Are Officials Being Unfair with Michael Bunting?

There seems to be little question that Bunting is on a steep learning curve. How does he play his game – which includes that pesty piece – while, at the same time, not getting penalties called against him? How can he learn from his experiences to walk that fine line without falling off?

Michael Bunting Maple Leafs 1

With the playoffs coming, drawing a penalty at the wrong time could spell disaster. The timing is absolutely wrong for Bunting to head into the postseason with a target on him and officials watching his every move and waiting for him to engage in a penalty-worthy activity.

Readers Seem Divided on Bunting’s Fate

In a post I wrote in The Hockey Writers today about Bunting, the conversation from readers suggested that their opinions are divided on Bunting’s behavior and how it’s perceived by officials and opponents in the NHL. Some believe that Bunting’s antics after the whistle, such as embellishing hits and talking to (yapping at) the referees, have earned him a reputation. As a result, he might not be getting the benefit of the doubt on calls. Others argue that Bunting has been the victim of unfair treatment from officials and that he is being targeted because of his aggressive play.

Regardless of the different opinions, it is clear that Bunting needs to be more disciplined and learn to avoid unnecessary actions that draw penalties or misconduct calls. Kicking the stick away from the Red Wings player or snapping his head back during a hit were cited as examples of actions that could and should be avoided. It is also important for Bunting to respect the officials and not engage in confrontations with them during games.

Related: Three Takeaways from Maple Leafs 5-2 Loss to Red Wings

Bunting Brings Energy, But He Needs to Control It Better

Overall, while some appreciate the energy and edge that Bunting brings to the Maple Leafs, he needs to find a balance between playing hard and crossing the line. It’s also important for him to earn the respect of his opponents and the officials by playing within (or at least close to) the rules and showing more discipline on the ice.

It’s understandable that the Maple Leafs are concerned about Bunting’s ability to perform well in upcoming playoffs, given his high number of penalties and physical abuse on the ice. Coach Keefe is taking the situation seriously. He told reporters that the team’s general manager, Kyle Dubas, would be talking to the league about the issue.

Clearly, Bunting is suffering some physical abuse during games; and, that’s not acceptable. That said, it’s also important to consider whether Bunting’s penalties are a result of his own behavior or due to biased officiating.

What Now for the Playoffs?

Coach Keefe has to hope that this issue with Bunting will be addressed before the playoffs begin. The playoffs are a critical time for any team. Every game is important, and all teams should have a fair shot to win.

If Bunting is facing physical abuse on the ice but also receiving a high number of penalties, this could significantly affect his ability to perform well during the playoffs. It would also affect his team’s ability to play well. We’ll see what happens.

The Bottom Line for Michael Bunting and the Maple Leafs

The bottom line revolves around three key points. First, Bunting needs to figure out how to deal with the abuse before the playoffs. Right now, there’s just not enough time left in the season to change the narrative.

Second, the Maple Leafs are preparing to speak to the NHL league offices to sort out this issue. No doubt, video clips will be sent to the hockey department of officiating to demonstrate the problem.

Third, how will the league respond? Does this situation “push” officials to respond in particular ways? We will soon see.

Related: Six Key Considerations as the Maple Leafs Head to Playoffs



  1. Chris D

    April 4, 2023 at 8:34 am

    The best revenge is to score a goal. Bunting has the skill to do it, and he’d be well-served to channel his reactions into his game, especially now that he’s drawn the attention of the officials. Counting to five before sounding off could help. However, whoever says officiating is impartial lives in a dream world. Seeing him get viciously crosschecked or left bleeding on the bench with no call is more than concerning because it challenges the integrity of the game and makes him a target. A crosscheck can turn into something worse if players believe there will be no reprisal. Shame on those officials for their own bullying behavior and their enabling of it.

  2. Pingback: Three Takeaways from Maple Leafs 4-3 Win Over Blue Jackets

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