It’s only one game, but Mark Giordano and Ryan Reaves look a step behind
Photo credit:Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
By Shane Seney2 months ago
While they’ve never been a couple of players who have been complimented for their foot speed, Toronto Maple Leafs veterans Ryan Reaves and Mark Giordano looked a step behind in their first preseason action.
The Maple Leafs hosted the Ottawa Senators on the back end of a home-and-home ‘Battle of Ontario’, and what I witnessed was a touch concerning. Sure, no need to overreact after just one game after a long summer where players can’t replicate game speed, but man, considering the roles both players are supposed to be playing for Toronto this season, made me wonder if general manager Brad Treliving may have his hands full with the team’s two oldest players.
Reaves Isn’t Going Anywhere
When ‘Reavo’ was signed to a three-year deal on the first day of free agency, it turned some heads as many people across the league didn’t feel the 36-year-old enforcer would be one to warrant a multi-year contract. Treliving had other ideas as he identified a need on the Leafs for some more ‘snot’ and let’s just say Reaves has been breaking noses for over a decade. But can he keep up? This Leafs team is built on speed and skill and the game continues to get faster year over year. After solely one game of the 2023-24 NHL preseason, my vote is no.
There were a few times against the Senators where Reaves was late on the forecheck. He was too late to even finish his check and on a couple of turnovers, he looked like he was on tape delay trying to get back into the play. Yes, he’s not in game shape just yet and we can all pump the brakes, but if you asked me a couple of things I am concerned about for this season’s Maple Leafs squad, Reaves would be someone I’d circle.
Three years at $1.35 million per season isn’t necessarily breaking the bank, but with the Maple Leafs cap situation, every dollar wasted hurts a significant amount. Reaves is expected to play around 8-10 minutes a night and he’s shown he can chip in once in awhile on the scoresheet, scoring five times in 61 games with the New York Rangers and Minnesota Wild last season. Toronto needs at least a little bit of production from their fourth line at 5v5, and there were times last night against the Sens where it looked like Reaves, David Kampf and Noah Gregor had some good chemistry. The trio appear to be a potential fit when it comes to the regular season opener on Oct.11 against the Montreal Canadiens.
Giordano Could Be a Different Story
With Kyle Dubas now in Pittsburgh, it made you wonder if the 39-year-old Giordano would be in trouble when the Leafs hired a new GM and how exactly they saw ‘Gio’ fitting into the mix. All Toronto did was hire Treliving, Gio’s GM in Calgary and someone who loves and respects his game. It truly couldn’t have worked out better for the Leafs’ defenseman in that regard.
However, Treliving will be in tough to balance out his feelings and his soft spot for Giordano and truly evaluate his game from an unbiased lens. If Giordano’s game against Ottawa reflects the rest of his season, it might be an issue.
While the veteran blueliner has never been one to blaze with speed, he lost a lot of foot battles throughout the game against the Sens and he’s going to need to rely on his positioning a ton to ensure he can still be effective. Giordano’s hands and hockey IQ are going to be what get him through this season, not his feet.
With his 40th birthday around the corner, Giordano will be the oldest player in the league, something he embraces. He’s a very respected voice in the Maple Leafs’ dressing room and while his impact will always be felt in the room as he’s a natural leader, his on-ice impact needs to be consistent or else he’s going to find himself not changing out of his suit once he arrives to the rink on game days.
You’ll hear a lot about the Maple Leafs needing another defenseman to get over the hump this season, and if they target an upgrade on the back end towards the trade deadline, he might be the odd one out.
No need to panic just yet, but it would be wise to keep an eye on Reaves and Giordano this season for the Maple Leafs. The former is supposed to be making a physical impact for the next three years, meanwhile the latter will be doing his best to stay in the league this season after reaching a legendary milestone.
With one preseason appearance in the books after a long summer off there’s some tiny cause for concern, but there’s still lots of time to turn things around for the Maple Leaf elders.
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