Welcome back to another Thursday of NHL Rumours with Last Word on Hockey. The regular season got off to a rousing start last night after an offseason filled with anticipation. Even as the season starts, there are always moving pieces and changes to discuss. Today’s round of NHL rumours covers the Toronto Maple Leafs, New Jersey Devils, and Winnipeg Jets.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Rumour: While many fans disagreed with coach Mike Babcock at the end of last season, no-one assumed he would be immediately let go. However, The Star columnist Dave Feschuk reveals just how close that firing was to reality.
Analysis: The disconnect revealed in the article between GM Kyle Dubas and Babcock doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Babcock is a representation of the old guard, Dubas is a representation of the new. While they do seem to dispell any sort of buffer between the two to the media, it’s now become obvious there are some disagreements.
Babcock, throughout his tenure, has shown an over-reliance on certain players that fit his style. Dubas surely wants the load to be spread out more and feels that the Leafs need to rely more on their strengths. A fundamental disconnect about how a team should be run isn’t a good thing to have between a coach and a GM. Changes could come soon in Toronto, especially if they fail to get out of the first round yet again. While Babcock has had much success in the league, he has now failed to win a playoff series since 2013 with the Detroit Red Wings. If Babcock decides to adapt a bit more to the new NHL this season, he could see his job with the Leafs last longer.
Rumour: Insider Michael Russo reports that Jets defenceman Dustin Byfuglien, currently on leave from the team, will opt for retirement.
Michael Russo on the Russo Souhan show: “I don’t think Byfuglien is going to play again”
— James (@Account4hockey) October 2, 2019
Analysis: Byfuglien has kept the Jets on the hook for quite a long while. He’s kept nearly silent since requesting a personal leave of absence from the team at the beginning of training camp. Over two weeks later, he may have made his decision. If the rumour pans out, he leaves the Jets blueline in an absolute state of disrepair. Josh Morrissey remains a bright spot, but the rest of the staff are either injury-prone or unproven. They’ll need some big contributions from youngsters like Neal Pionk and Sami Niku if the Jets are to return to the playoffs for another season.
Byfuglien had quite a remarkable career if he calls it quits. A Stanley Cup Champion with Chicago, he’d finish with 525 points in 869 games. For someone who was injured as often as Byfuglien was, those are extremely impressive totals. The Jets will miss his distinct mix of brute force and sly aggressiveness that set him apart. They lose a legitimate offensive threat on defence as well.
New Jersey Devils
Analysis: Pysyk is an odd player for the Devils to go after. Normally playing on the right side, Pysyk moved to the left often in Florida and is a candidate to be a healthy scratch on opening night. Pysyk is not an offensive threat (one goal in 70 games last year) but is rather reliable. He’s played 82 games twice in the past three seasons, all of which he’s spent with Florida.
While the Devils seem to already have a decent left side with Will Butcher, Andy Greene, and Mirco Mueller, Pysyk would provide some solid defensive reliability. Pysyk comes at a rather steep cap hit of $2,733,333, so it seems logical that the Panthers would have to retain some salary in any potential deal. It’s important to note that Pysyk is a pending UFA. He could be trade bait at the deadline if he doesn’t work out wherever he is.