Until Jake Muzzin moved to Maple Leafs on Monday, he had spent most of an eight-year NHL race playing alongside a fellow defense named Drew Doughty.
You know about Doughty, the winner of the Norris Trophy 2016 and the champion of Stanley Cup twice with the Kings of Los Angeles. A couple of seasons ago, Doughty sent to Toronto a great leap when he unleashed the desire to play at the center of the hockey universe.
"I think of all the players in southern Ontario, we want to secretly play Leafs," Doughty told the TSN radio in June 2017.
The fans of blue and white, who have not been so privileged for an upgrade of the defensive body of the team estimated for the eons, could not stop thinking about the possibility of succeeding. The addition of a Norris Trophy level talent to the Toronto blue line, given the obvious gifts of the Toronto games in the Matthews-Marner era, could be to remove the franchise from pretending contender
It turned out that Doughty, who is from London, Ont., Only scoffed at his return to Highway 401. Last summer he signed a contractual extension of eight years with the Kings for $ 88 million.
And perhaps, seen in retrospect, this is for the best. Toronto, after all, suddenly has his own talent at the Norris Trophy level at Morgan Rielly, who at the age of 24 is enjoying an escape season as one of the best advocates of the league. And thanks to the change of business that led Muzzin to the city, while sending a prospective selection and prospect of the first round of 2019, Carl Grundstrom and Sean Durzi to LA, the Maple Leafs are also equipped with a defender of Stanley Cup who is more than equipped to record the great minutes required by Rielly's partner.
In other words: This is a deal that should overstep both Maple Leafs fans and their top defenseman. Although Rielly will never complain, playing the last few seasons, along with Hainsey, 37, has not been ideal for Toronto's tallest rearguard. Hainsey, for all his winning experience of the Stanley Cup with the 2017 Penguins and with all his untiring service, does not make enough skates to be the type of players that move around fossils, which requires a role of " pairing Your style of glass and stick will be much more pleasant to see in smaller doses by the depth chart.
Muzzin, 29, and at his own expense, has spent his professional career showing himself as a complete complement to Doughty, who pushed the rhythm of the push strongly. And although the disadvantage is easy to see, Muzzin, who shoots on the left, does not address the long-lamented hole on the right side of Toronto, it is worth remembering that both Rielly and Hainsey are also left-handed. Although it is not ideal, there is no doubt that the arrangement can be done to work.
"I am very excited to join Toronto," Muzzin said in a telephone conference with journalists on Monday night. "I would be fine (playing) either (the left or right side), I think. And there is enough of D where we can appreciate something."
This agreement works for Maple Leafs in many levels. The impact of $ 4 million in Muzzin, in a contract that runs until next season, is ideal for a team ready to face the salary ceiling next year, when Toronto will probably lose colleague Jake Gardiner for the free agency.
And right now, instead of waiting until the February 25 deadline, Muzzin gets two more months and 33 remaining regular season games to find his support for the Toronto system before the playoffs.
"This was one of the things that appealed to Jake (Muzzin) – (he) at the time and we are happy to know that he will be here for at least the next year and a half and two will enter in spring" . said Kyle Dubas, CEO of Toronto.
The arrival figures of Muzzin make Babcock happy. When Muzzin made the Canada list for the 2016 World Cup, eyebrows raised as P.K. Subban and Kris Letang were not among the Canadian defenses chosen. And while Muzzin played in a single game, his selection said something about Babcock's preference for low cost low-cost blubberers.
The acquisition of Muzzin should make the traditionalists happy. The story suggests that Muzzin will eventually reach a person, a forgotten concept of a team that is largely composed of top-level skill players who do not see body control as an essential part of the game. # 39; a gel repertoire. What else would you expect from a player that grew up in Woodstock, Ont., Applauding the leaves?
"Growing up in Ontario, everybody was a Leafs fanatic, and I was included. Playing at a young age, he watched Doug Gilmour, Wendel Clark. We were all Felix Potvin on the net," he said Muzzin. "It's fun as life works, and here I have been, coming home to play the team I rooted to grow. It's a bit ironic."
The presence of Muzzin on the Toronto lineup, which began in the post-break practice of the team on Thursday in Detroit in the first phase of the Friday match against the Red Wings, should also incite the devotees of the analysis. Muzzin, after all, is a true God of Hearts. Since entering the league in 2010-11, an NHL defender who has played at least 300 games has ordered a greater percentage of shooting attempts than 57% of Muzzin.
Doughty, of course, is also the defenseman who called "Corsi" from celebrities. Even if you do not believe in the merits of these numbers, you may find value in them. Muzzin has played in 50 playoff racing games and has been a minor reserve – read for much more. Before playing 23 minutes playing along with Doughty on the way to winning the Stanley Cup in 2014, Muzzin was a practical player during the league title in the 2012 Cup. Although Muzzin never wore a playoff match during this 2012 trip through the glove, hanged in case of an injury and took his picture taking Lord Stanley's chalice in celebrations after the victory of the franchise. In other words, it has been through what the Maple Leafs expect imminently, and it has happened more than once, although it has played in only seven playoff games since winning the Cup in 2014.
Now that Muzzin is on board, it is difficult that he does not like his chances of resuming both him and his new franchise with the wild beauty of a post-season race that lasts most of a handful of games.
Dave Feschuk is a Toronto-based sports columnist. Follow it on Twitter: @dfeschuk