In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I’ll look more in-depth at two new bottom-six players headed to the team. One is Nicolas Aube-Kubel, who just was part of the Stanley Cup-winning Colorado Avalanche team. The other is Adam Gaudette, who most recently played with the Ottawa Senators.
Obviously, the jury is out on whether these two youngsters will be able to make significant contributions to the team. However, both come with skill sets that might help the team’s bottom six be stronger and faster.
Item One: What to Expect from Nicolas Aube-Kubel
In a video conference late last week, Nicolas Aube-Kubel spoke about his signing a one-year contract with the Maple Leafs. He had an interesting 2021-22 season, being waived by the Philadelphia Flyers early and then picked up and playing 67 games with the Colorado Avalanche.
Eventually, as was reported widely and many fans saw on television after the final game of the Stanley Cup, Aube-Kubel not only got to hoist the Cup he also got to let it down – a bit too quickly. It hit the ice just before the Avalanche team photo.
Then, not long after the parade and the celebration, the Avalanche chose not to give him a qualifying offer and he became a free agent. Aube-Kubel considered his opportunities and chose the Maple Leafs.
Aube-Kubel is a 5-foot-11, 187-pound forward who isn’t much for scoring (he’s totalled 21 goals in 169 NHL games – 11 goals with the Avalanche last season); but, by his own words, he’s a tenacious forechecker. Some hockey pundits see him as a likely replacement for Ilya Mikheyev, who joined the Vancouver Canucks last week. However, new signee Calle Jarnkrok might be tapped on the shoulder first for Mikheyev’s old spot.
During the video conference, Aube-Kubel noted that he had to overcome two small issues before he joined the Maple Leafs. First, because he grew up in Montreal, one of his first thoughts was that “Toronto is like the enemy.” Second, the 26-year-old forward noted that “With the offers I had, Toronto was my favorite one because they have such a good team, and have a really good chance for the Cup next year.”
In short, Aubé-Kubel chose to join the Maple Leafs because he thinks he’ll have a chance to become a repeat Stanley Cup champ. As he noted, he “didn’t want to go somewhere where we would have a losing mentality or anything like that or just not make the playoffs.”
When he was asked what fans should expect from him, he noted with some confidence that “I know myself to be physical and fast. … I’m really tenacious. You guys will see it next season.” (from “New Leafs forward Nicolas Aubé-Kubel is warming up the enemy, Kevin McGran, Toronto Sun, 15/07/2022).
Item Two: The Health Issues that Slowed Adam Gaudette’s Play
Of all the signings the Maple Leafs made, one of my favorites was Adam Gaudette. I got to know his play when I covered the Canucks as well as the Maple Leafs a couple of years ago. At that time, I liked the 25-year-old’s skill and skating ability. He also seemed to be able to score timely goals. I lost track of him a bit after he left Vancouver, but I hope he’s able to reprise the energy I once saw as a fan.
Since that time, the 6-foot-1 forward (who can center and both wing positions) has kicked around the NHL. The Maple Leafs will be his fourth team in three seasons. Here’s hoping the stomach issues (candidiasis) he had are now under control and no longer leave him unable to play at 100 percent.
Gaudette admitted, “I couldn’t eat after training or a game for a couple of hours. My muscles would deteriorate. And I was just not able to repair my body and to recover from the strain that I put on it.”
Gaudette added that with a “revamped” diet his stomach issues have “pretty much all cleared up.” He hasn’t had problems, was able to maintain his weight during this past season, and has been putting muscle on during training.
He now feels “great. I have more energy. I’m able to do two things throughout the day without being lethargic or tired.”
Gaudette added that his game was “back now. … I have the confidence and I just need the opportunity. It looks like I’m going to be able to get that opportunity in Toronto, which I’m really excited about.”
Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas became convinced Gaudette’s game was on track when he saw him play on Team USA at the recent world championships.
I hope Gaudette can show Maple Leafs’ fans what I saw when he played in Vancouver. He has a bit of Mikheyev’s, David Kampf’s, and Mitch Marner’s defensive game in him. He seems to be able to anticipate offensive plays, fill the passing lanes, pick off pucks, and turn them toward the opposition’s goalie.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
With the signing of Jarnkrok, the Maple Leafs are over the upper limit of the salary cap. That would seem like a trade of some sort is on its way. What it is, I can only anticipate.
Without any reason to suspect, I have an inkling it might be something big. I’m wondering if Jake Muzzin’s $5.625 million contract might be moved. There’s some roadblock in re-signing Rasmus Sandin.
Is there a possibility something’s up?
The Old Prof (Jim Parsons, Sr.) taught for more than 40 years in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. He’s a Canadian boy, who has two degrees from the University of Kentucky and a doctorate from the University of Texas. He is now retired on Vancouver Island, where he lives with his family. His hobbies include playing with his hockey cards and simply being a sports fan – hockey, the Toronto Raptors, and CFL football (thinks Ricky Ray personifies how a professional athlete should act).
If you wonder why he doesn’t use his real name, it’s because his son – who’s also Jim Parsons – wrote for The Hockey Writers first and asked Jim Sr. to use another name so readers wouldn’t confuse their work.
Because Jim Sr. had worked in China, he adopted the Mandarin word for teacher (老師). The first character lǎo (老) means “old,” and the second character shī (師) means “teacher.” The literal translation of lǎoshī is “old teacher.” That became his pen name. Today, other than writing for The Hockey Writers, he teaches graduate students research design at several Canadian universities.
He looks forward to sharing his insights about the Toronto Maple Leafs and about how sports engages life more fully. His Twitter address is https://twitter.com/TheOldProf