TORONTO (Oct. 29) — His name is bandied about haphazardly, as if the Leafs have a ready–made clone.
Trade conjecture involving James van Riemsdyk does not emanate from a source within the team; Lou Lamoriello would strangle any–such person. It is, however, very much “out there” amid cyberspace… involving media and fans. And, it’s a grievous miscalculation. The prevailing opinion? That JVR is “expendable”, given the youth and skill the Maple Leafs are developing up front. You’d think van Riemsdyk is closing in on his 40th birthday when, in fact, he is merely 27 and just now entering his prime years in the National Hockey League. Clearly, JVR would fetch a decent return and maybe provide the Toronto blue–line with added depth. But, the Leafs must be very careful before pulling the trigger on any–such move.
Again, there isn’t a shred of evidence that Lamoriello has even thought about trading van Riemsdyk. It is, however, an increasingly popular theme among observers of the Blue and White. I have twice read that JVR can be unloaded once Nikita Soshnikov recovers sufficiently from a hamstring injury. Soshnikov, 23, has started the season with the American Hockey League Toronto Marlies, scoring once in five games. In 11 matches with the Leafs a year ago, he tallied twice and appeared to have a nose for the net. But, the sample–size was not nearly big enough to conclude that Soshnikov can replace van Riemsdyk on the roster.
In fact, the notion — at this point — is somewhat preposterous.
JAMES van RIEMSDYK WAS IN ROBERTO LUONGO’S GRILL FOR MUCH OF THURSDAY NIGHT’S WIN.
Though JVR will never be a finalist for the Selke Trophy, he is an accomplished big–league forward with 453 games and 140 goals on his NHL resume. His willingness to stake out territory in front of the opposition net cannot be minimized, for no other player on the Leafs — and relatively few, league–wide — offers such gallantry. In Thursday’s 3–2 conquest of Florida at the Air Canada Centre, van Riemsdyk worked marvelously on a line with Tyler Bozak and rookie Mitch Marner (he has four goals in seven early–season games).
While blocking a shot in San Jose last Jan. 9, JVR sustained a non–displaced fracture of his left foot. On Feb. 25, the Leafs reported he suffered a “set–back” in his rehab and would miss the remainder of the season. People have recovered more rapidly from organ transplants. It was purely a “tanking” measure on behalf of the club. JVR and Joffrey Lupul were shuffled to the sideline on the same afternoon; the Maple Leafs met their goal of finishing dead–last in the overall standings and chose Auston Matthews No. 1 in the NHL draft.
Prior to his “debilitating” fracture, van Riemsdyk had missed only two of 210 games in a Toronto jersey, both during the 2013–14 schedule. He has seasons of 30 and 27 goals with the Leafs and is capable of hitting 40 with the right combination of luck and line–mates. This is not a player you trade because of apparent “depth” at left–wing. Rather, JVR is of caliber to move forward with into playoff (and Stanley Cup) contention.
Those that flippantly suggest he is expendable are way off the mark.
50 YEARS AGO TONIGHT
BOBBY ORR AT THE GARDENS
Hard to believe it was on this date in 1966 — also a Saturday — that Bobby Orr played his first game at Maple Leaf Gardens for the Boston Bruins; his fourth, overall, in the NHL. Orr had been a frequent visitor to the Gardens while starring with the Oshawa Generals of the Ontario Hockey Association and had once been “lent” to the junior Toronto Marlboros for an exhibition match against the Russians. He arrived in our town a half–century ago tonight as the most–touted rookie in modern NHL annals… and justified every plaudit.
Above and below are the line–ups from Oct. 29, 1966 at Maple Leaf Gardens. My ol’ pal Bruce Hood was the referee. Bruce Gamble (Toronto) and Eddie Johnston were the goalies. I have the program bound into a book of a dozen–such items from the ’66–67 Leafs season, as Toronto would win its 13th (and most recent) Stanley Cup championship. Orr appeared twice at the Gardens in an injury–plagued rookie campaign.
OTHER HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE PROGRAM…
THE NHL’s 50th SEASON WOULD BE THE LAST OF THE SIX–TEAM ERA. IN 1967–68, IT DOUBLED TO 12 CLUBS, ADDING CALIFORNIA (OAKLAND), LOS ANGELES, MINNESOTA, PHILADELPHIA, PITTSBURGH AND ST. LOUIS. THE GARDENS’ PROGRAMS IN ’66–67 FEATURED REPORTS ON ALL THE NEW ENTRIES.
IN 1966–67, THE GARDENS UNVEILED THE DARK–GREEN, DIGITAL SCORE–CLOCK IT WOULD FEATURE ABOVE CENTER–ICE UNTIL 1982. CHIEF AMONG THOSE CONSTRUCTING THE NEW DEVICE WAS PAUL MORRIS (BELOW), ALSO THE ICONIC PUBLIC–ADDRESS VOICE OF THE ARENA.
BOBBY ORR WAS AT THE TOP OF EVERY “NEW–FACE” ARTICLE IN ’66–67.
FROM THE NOV. 5, 1966 ISSUE OF THE HOCKEY NEWS, THE OCT. 29 LEAFS–BRUINS SUMMARY.