The hits just keep on coming for Toronto Maple Leafs forward William Nylander.
According to a breaking news report from Toronto Maple Leafs beat reporter Kevin McGran the Maple Leafs, and more specifically Maple Leafs' head coach Mike Babcock, appear to have demoted Nylander back down to the 4th line in practice today. The move is the latest in a series of struggles for Nylander since he signed his new contract as a restricted free agent earlier in the season and it will likely only add to the damage his reputation has suffer in the Toronto market for both his contract hold out as well as the performance that has followed.
Although the move from Mike Babcock is certainly warranted I believe it may also be a sign of Babcock's frustration with the player. It was only earlier this week that Babcock made it clear that he does not feel Nylander is the type of player that should be anchoring the Maple Leafs 4th line.
“Kappy started there this year,” Babcock said as per the Toronto Sun. “Mitchy just played there his first year when he was learning to play, but the bottom line is we don’t want Willy on the fourth. We want him being a contributor to our club. He’s an honest kid, he’ll continue to work at it. He’s probably never been through something like this.”
The fact that this move comes so quickly after these comments could potentially be a bad sign for Nylander and will undoubtedly continue to fuel the trade rumors that have already begun to crop up again due to his offensive struggles. What the next move for Mike Babcock and the Maple Leafs will be at this stage will depend on the kind of performance that Nylander is able to produce with the limited amount of minutes he is going to get on the team's bottom line.
Since returning after his lengthy contract hold out to start the season Nylander has produced just a single goal and has only added 2 assists for a total of 3 points in 19 games played. Additionally he boasts a plus minus rating of -9 on the season which, although a team based statistic, points to the fact that he may actually be a liability on the ice for the Leafs. Certainly not the kind of play you expect after giving a player like Nylander a big money deal.