The Toronto Maple Leafs are starting to pile up wins … and also, unfortunately, injuries. Following bad news for Ilya Mikheyev, the team announced that defenseman Jake Muzzin is week-to-week with a broken foot.
Clearly, beating the Devils 5-4 in OT on Friday now qualifies as a costly win. Muzzin hurt himself blocking a shot, while that scary skate blade injury will cost Mikheyev months.
Muzzin suffered the injury during the first period, but kept playing and walking. Maybe that made things a bit worse?
Jake Muzzin is an animal. Played majority of Friday night’s game on a broken foot and walked to bus after in dress shoes without crutches.
— luke fox (@lukefoxjukebox) December 28, 2019
Maple Leafs injuries accumulate
Again, the list of injuries is starting to climb, especially if you consider the season at large (with Mitch Marner and John Tavares missing substantial time).
Combine Muzzin and Mikheyev with the losses of wingers Trevor Moore (out indefinitely with a concussion) and Andreas Johnsson (leg, on IR) and things escalate. About the only “perk” is that all of those injuries alleviate short-term salary cap concerns.
Deflecting to that really feels like gallows humor, though.
Next Man Up, injury bug hits the Leafs hard, man games lost now pushing into the 80’s , a mark the club didn’t hit until late last March. Adam Brooks will be the 6th Leaf to make his NHL debut this season. Marty Marincin slots in for Jake Muzzin. #LeafsForever
— Paul Hendrick (@HennyTweets) December 28, 2019
Maple Leafs might need to keep outscoring their problems
OK, maybe there’s one other indirect perk: still-new head coach Sheldon Keefe gets even more incentive just to let this group loose. However you feel about Muzzin’s effectiveness since joining the Maple Leafs, he’s not really there for elite scoring ability. Theoretically, his replacements may bring more to the table and take more away. Personally, I’d be more than OK with additional games like that 8-6 thrillride against the Hurricanes, but others, are … well, grumpier. Some agree with my high-entertainment preference, though.
May this team never try to defend again. Just stop the charade. We will never be good at it. Ever. Cheat on the wrong side of the puck. Circle at centre until your chance comes. Fly my children. Be your irresponsible selves and feel no shame.
— Festive Stick (@TheOakLeafs) December 23, 2019
At minimum, the Maple Leafs appear refreshed and unleashed under Keefe compared to the dull latter Mike Babcock days.
Even grumbling critics have to agree that they’ve been better in the standings lately. Toronto’s now won six in a row, with a chance to make it seven against the Rangers on Saturday.
Are they messy sometimes? Sure, but personally, I’ll take a messy-fun hockey game over a “perfectly” played snore-fest.
And, frankly, it’s clearly the style of game that behooves Toronto’s bounty of talent. With Muzzin out week-to-week, it might not just be the best choice, but also the only choice.
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.