When Wayne Simmonds signed with his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs, he wanted to begin contributing. Once the very epitome of what a power forward should be like, Simmonds spent a few iffy seasons bouncing around the NHL from team to team – sadly not making much of a contribution. Certainly, not on the score sheet.
How Many Fourth-Line Minutes Might Simmonds Play?
When he then signed with the Maple Leafs, some fans wondered why general manager Kyle Dubas might sign him. In fact, he was supposed to add fourth-line grit and play with Jason Spezza (who granted adds fourth-line and power-play scoring) and perhaps newcomer Alexander Barbanov. In fact, past his much-needed grit and veteran presence, what other contributions might a perhaps past-his-best-NHL-hockey winger bring.
The Maple Leafs Got More than Expected from the Wayne Train
The Maple Leafs have begun to find out. And, as a result, the Wayne Train (as is Simmonds’ nickname) is beginning to barrel up the tracks. He’s moved from a bottom-six role who was part of the team’s second-unit power play to a chance on the team’s second line partnered with captain John Tavares and William Nylander. At least that’s what it looked like after yesterday’s practice.
Listening to his new partner speak about what Simmonds brings to the team is interesting on two counts. First, Nylander – who always seems to me a bit taciturn – seemed almost bubbly. Is it possible he’s simply excited for the possibility? Second, Nylander spoke about the ‘fearlessness’ and energy that Simmonds could add to that line. Both qualities could make a huge contribution.
As Nylander Says, Simmonds Is Fearless
Already Maple Leafs’ fans have witnessed Simmonds’ fearlessness in two ways. First, they’ve already seen him engage in fisticuffs with the Montreal Canadiens’ Ben Chiarot in the first game of the season. With the Maple Leafs losing 3-1 in the second period, Simmonds tussle with the Habs’ player might have helped motivate the team, who came back to beat the Canadiens 5-4 in overtime.
Second, Simmonds has scored two of his three season’s goals on the power play where he basically throws up a wall in front of the opposing goalie and – according to an article yesterday by TSN’s Mark Masters – has told his power-play partner Mitch Marner to “feel free to shoot the puck at his chest” as a way to create rebound chances.
As Nylander said (with a smile, I add again), “He’s fearless. He works really hard. He’s got a lot of energy all the time, which is fun … He’s a heavy body in front of the net and wins pucks back and is a great net-front guy. We had some nice chemistry in practice today.”
What Are the Chances the Experiment Will Work?
We’ll see what happens with Simmonds’ addition to that line. Jimmy Vesey began the season on the second line, then Vesey gave way to Ilya Mikheyev. Now it’s Simmonds’ turn.
If that line can find a solid third, Maple Leafs’ fans might want to clear the tracks. Here comes the Wayne Train.
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