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Photo Credit: © Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

TLN Top 20 Leafs: #19 Wayne Simmonds

Wayne Simmonds always seemed to be the dream Toronto Maple Leaf for a lot of fans, especially in his 30 goal power forward days from the early 2010s. Of course, when he finally joined the Leafs last season, he was not that player anymore, but fans were still excited for him to finally wear the blue and white.

Simmonds ranking was relatively consistent among our contributors, going as high as 16, and two people not even ranking him, so it seems after a solid first season with the Leafs, expectations have been tempered.

Five Interesting Stats

5v5 CF% 5v5 xGF% Sh% PP TOI PP P/60
53.62 55.35 11.3 68:07 2.64

One of the biggest surprises of Wayne Simmonds’ 2020-21 season was his effectiveness at driving play. In his three year’s prior to last year, he was significantly worse with a 46.68% 5v5 CF% and a 47.77% 5v5 xGF%, so there was some question as to whether or not he’d be an anchor for a line. His most common linemate was Ilya Mikheyev, so it’s not like he was carried, but at the very least, he wasn’t a drag regardless of where he played in the lineup.

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He also surprised fans with a bit of his goal scoring, especially to start with five goals in his first 12 games. He only ended up with seven in 38, but that’s a 15 goal pace in an 82 game season, which is good production from a bottom six player. That production didn’t quite carry to the power play, and that is where the biggest complaint of Simmonds is. Simmonds found himself out of his element there, as he was often placed with Matthews and Marner when they split the units, and he was even on there a lot when they “loaded” the units with Tavares on there, as Simmonds was there in place of Nylander. Obviously it’s more on the coaching than him, but when you’re seventh among Leafs forwards in PP time, and last in PP points per 60 minutes, he really shouldn’t have been on there as much, especially at the expense of Nylander, who was the MOST productive power play producer, on a unit that struggled for most of the year.

Last Season…

It didn’t take too long for Wayne Simmonds to find his way into most Leafs fans hearts. On opening night, he got in a fight with the team down by two goals to get the team going, and they ended up coming back to win in overtime. It took him seven games to get his first goal, but then he scored in three straight, and ended up with five in six games during that stretch, and he seemed to fit in regardless of where he was in the lineup.

Unfortunately, a wrist injury saw Simmonds miss six weeks of the season, and he was never quite the same after that. He was still an effective play driver, but his offense was basically non-existent. He scored just two goals in his remaining 26 games, both at even strength, which isn’t bad, except he got a lot of opportunities on the power play. I wouldn’t go as far to say as him being on there was the reason it sucked, but he definitely didn’t help improve it.

At 32 years old, fatigue also played a role in his season as you could tell he was struggling to generate anything later on in the season, and even physically he wasn’t a huge presence in the playoffs, which is kind of why they got him. Once again, that’s more on coaching than him, as he never really got any games off, but maybe that’ll change next season.

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What to expect…

There are a lot of different ways Wayne Simmonds season could go this year, because last season was so different from his usual performances that I’m not sure if that’s because he’s playing on a good team or if it is just an anomaly. A lot of it will also depend on his usage, and whether the coaches over rely on him.

What I would hope to expect from him is that he mostly stays in a bottom six role, is rotated in and out of the lineup (so, he’s not in the lineup every day), and he sees power play time, but on the second unit, with NONE of the big four on it. Considering the team he’s playing on and the systems they employ, I wouldn’t be shocked if he’s a solid play driver again, and probably chips in for about 10 goals. Hopefully, by playing in a reduced role with more rest, he’ll be in a much better position to be a physical presence in the playoffs, which is what he’s most needed for.

But, coaching proved to us last season that what they think Wayne Simmonds is is a lot different than what Wayne Simmonds actually is. He’ll probably play in every game unless he’s injured, probably get more power play time than he needs, including some time with Matthews and Marner, and because of that, will probably be pretty tired by the time the playoffs roll around.

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Age will also be a factor, as he turned 33 at the end of August. All of these predictions could go out the window if Father Time comes along and tells him he can’t play hockey anymore. The important thing if that happens is that the team recognizes when that happens and makes adjustments, but as I mentioned before, I don’t have full faith in coaching to do that.

Simmonds’ goal song

I feel like there isn’t a better option for the Wayne Train’s goal song than the most famous song every written about trains: the Thomas the Tank Engine theme song. I’m sure there’s a remix of it that might pump up the crowd more, but honestly, even the original song would be hilarious to hear after a goal is scored, so I would love to see this.