We all knew it was going to happen, but now it’s official: Paul Ranger and the Toronto Maple Leafs have parted ways.
Ranger has reportedly signed a two-year contract with the Geneve-Servette HC of the Swiss league, moving from the centre of the hockey universe to its periphery. The financial terms of the contract aren’t known as this time, but it’s hard to imagine Ranger earning a raise over the one-year, $1 million deal he got from the Leafs last season.
Toronto added Ranger during the 2013 off-season in the hope that he could bolster the offensive output of the blue line. Ranger spent the previous season playing for the club’s AHL affiliate team, the Toronto Marlies, where he collected 25 points (8 goals, 17 assists) in 51 games and it looked like he was poised to resume his NHL career after spending three years away from hockey for personal reasons.
Ranger was a regular fixture on the Leafs’ blue line at the start of last season, but his presence gradually waned over the course of the season. He recorded 14 points (6 goals, 8 assists) in 53 games for the Leafs, averaging 17:25 minutes of ice time per game. Casual fans of the Leafs will probably remember Ranger best as the victim of a questionable hit from the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Alex Killorn.
I’m sure many hard core fans of the Leafs will be happy to see Ranger leave. He never lived up to expectations and it’s easy to pin part of the blame for the defence’s general futility last season on him. There’s also the argument that he took valuable playing time away from Jake Gardiner and Morgan Rielly – the true future of Toronto’s blue line.
While there’s no denying that Ranger’s time in Toronto was far from perfect, I think a lot of the criticism directed his way is undeserved. Here’s a guy who overcame his personal demons to wear the jersey of his boyhood team – the biggest team in hockey – without ever complaining about the treatment he received from the fans, the media or even the coaching staff as the season progressed.
Were high expectations placed on him?
Did he live up to these expectations?
Does this diminish his comeback?
The pressure of playing in Toronto never got to Ranger and I’m sure that’s a small, personal victory for him worth more than any amount of money.
Good luck, Paul.