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Sports Maple Leafs will be tested by loss of Jake Muzzin’s leadership

20:16  26 february  2020
20:16  26 february  2020 Source:   sportsnet.ca

Report: Maple Leafs expected to extend Muzzin by trade deadline

  Report: Maple Leafs expected to extend Muzzin by trade deadline The Toronto Maple Leafs and defenseman Jake Muzzin are expected to come to terms on a contract extension by the Feb. 24 trade deadline, TSN's Darren Dreger reported on Thursday's edition of "Insider Trading." "It's getting closer. It's not done yet, (but) the expectation is - if all things progress in the fashion that they are - that they should have a contract extension in place for Jake Muzzin as early (as) or before the trade deadline,""It's getting closer. It's not done yet, (but) the expectation is - if all things progress in the fashion that they are - that they should have a contract extension in place for Jake Muzzin as early (as) or before the trade deadline," Dreger said.

a hockey player with a bat: jake-muzzin-leafs © Nathan Denette/CP jake-muzzin-leafs

SUNRISE, Fla. — To understand how quickly Jake Muzzin became part of the Toronto Maple Leafs fabric, it’s instructive to reflect on his uneasy beginning with the team.

"There’s no question about it: It’s not perfect, it’s what we got," former coach Mike Babcock said, infamously, on Muzzin’s first day with the Leafs a little more than a year ago. He was referencing the imbalance of left- and right-handed shots among the defence corps, but he just as easily could have been talking about how the defenceman felt amid the shock of his first NHL trade.

Those early days in Toronto were tough.

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"I was living in a hotel with three dogs and a pregnant wife," Muzzin said recently. "Yeah, there was a lot of s––t going on."

Fast forward to the dark feeling hovering over the team after Wednesday’s announcement that the 31-year-old will be out approximately four weeks with a broken right hand. The injury was suffered Tuesday night in Tampa in the Leafs’ first game following a trade deadline where the only notable addition was depth defenceman Calle Rosen, who has been recalled from the American Hockey League.

The news comes two days after Muzzin signed a $22.5-million, four-year extension that underscored his value to the organization.

He makes the strongest defensive impact of any defencemen on the roster and has become a trusted voice inside the dressing room. He and his wife, Courtney, have settled into a house in the suburbs and found comfort in their new surroundings.

Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas has relatively uneventful trade deadline day

  Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas has relatively uneventful trade deadline day Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas resisted the temptation to make significant changes at the NHL trade deadline. He's hoping adversity makes his slumping team stronger. The Leafs, coming off a 6-3 loss to 42-year-old emergency goaltender David Ayres and the Carolina Hurricanes, made only three minor deals prior to Monday's 3 p.m. ET trade deadline. Toronto's biggest move Monday was an internal transaction, signing defenceman Jake Muzzin to a four-year contract extension with an average annual value of just over US$5.6 million.

It was telling that in announcing the Muzzin extension on Monday that Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas pointed to the player’s 10-game absence with a broken foot after the Christmas break as a moment when his importance was reinforced: "I think it was very apparent when he was out of the lineup that we missed him deeply."

It’s not a stretch to suggest that his latest injury could cost the Leafs a playoff spot, especially since it follows those to Morgan Rielly (broken foot) and Cody Ceci (ankle).

The Leafs hold a two-point lead over Florida for third place in the Atlantic Division heading into Thursday’s game here against the Panthers. They now boast a top-six that features one player – Tyson Barrie – with more than 250 NHL games on his resume. The rest of the group is still finding its way at this level: Martin Marincin (222 games), Travis Dermott (151), Justin Holl (75), Rasmus Sandin (24), Rosen (16) and Timothy Liljegren (eight).

Muzzin exits vs. Lightning with hand injury

  Muzzin exits vs. Lightning with hand injury Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Muzzin exited Tuesday's contest versus the Tampa Bay Lightning with a hand injury and won't return, the team announced. Muzzin blocked a Victor Hedman shot late in the second period and didn't come out for the final frame. Muzzin blocked a Victor Hedman shot late in the second period and didn't come out for the final frame. The Leafs didn't have an update on his status following their 4-3 victory, according to The Athletic's James Mirtle.

Muzzin’s leadership qualities might be the toughest to replace with so much riding on every game down the stretch. He emerged as a strong voice during the team’s recent stretch of up-and-down performances and has been backing it up with his play.

Earlier this week, Sheldon Keefe pulled him aside to discuss the importance of helping bring along a young group. He thought Muzzin’s message would be heard even louder after he chose to skip out on the possibility of free agency to sign a new deal in Toronto.

"This signing is significant in terms of just giving him the ability to know that he’s really in this with us," said Keefe. "Not that he wasn’t before, but just having it secured like that we can really get to work."

"The core of the team needs to take a jump consistently," Muzzin said before Tuesday’s game in Tampa. "We can’t have it one night and not the next. That’s everyone and that’s bringing along the younger core as well. We have to give them no option but to come with us."

Now they have to play on without him.

It’s not going to be easy.

Rick Zamperin: How can we trust the Maple Leafs when they can’t trust themselves? .
The Toronto Maple Leafs look like Stanley Cup contenders one period, and NHL bottom feeders the next. One game, they are world-beaters, the next, not so much. Entering this week, Toronto has 13 games left on their schedule (seven of them are against playoff teams) and is three points ahead of the Panthers for third place in the Atlantic Division. Florida has a game in hand and will face off against six playoff teams over their final 14 games. Head coach Sheldon Keefe will soon have defencemen Morgan Rielly and Jake Muzzin back from the injured list which should -- I say, should -- help balance the Dr. Jekyll and Mr.

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