Matt Hunwick is dead. Okay, no he’s not, but that statement isn’t much worse than Mike Babcock’s “gave him the boot” quote after today’s practice. Whatever the case, the Leafs lost a player today when the 30-year-old defenceman got hurt while honing his skills.
Leafs ice-time leader Matt Hunwick (22:26 per game) departs practice early … unclear what happened
— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) February 17, 2016
This, depending on your perspective, is a blow to the team. On one hand, Morgan Rielly plays much better without him (52.6% CF, 46.4% team GF) than with him (47.0% CF, 39.6% team CF). On the other hand, Hunwick isn’t a totally awful defenceman; just one who probably shouldn’t be playing 22 and a half minutes a night and starting in the defensive zone nearly 60% of the time.
It’ll be hard for the Leafs to replace his usage. Even if you’re of the belief that the team has better players, there’s a talent to eating ice time and not completely falling off a cliff by the final buzzer, which you can argue that Hunwick has shown some capability of sustaining. No matter where you stand on “Tank Nation”, you still want the team to try to win until the final buzzer, and it’s hard to deny this will make that more difficult. With all of this considered, and the fact that Hunwick will miss at least a little bit of time as a result of what happened this morning, I ask the following questions to you.
a) Who plays with Morgan Rielly now? Do you move up Jake Gardiner? Do you thrust Jared Cowen into the spotlight as soon as he’s healthy? Is it time to double down on the Roman Polak firesale machine?
b) If Hunwick is out for a while, does it decrease his value at the trade deadline? He’s not a pending UFA, but his low salary means that teams might still have been interested. Does this effect that?
c) While we’re talking about soundbites as weird as Babcock’s, would Matt Hunwick have left his wife in coach?
Let’s hear what you have to say!