Toronto Maple Leafs: What’s wrong with William Nylander?

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 18: William Nylander
TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 18: William Nylander /

While William Nylander has had some tough moments this season for the Toronto Maple Leafs, are things really that bad for the winger?

You may have noticed the local media coverage is somewhat intense/obsessive, when it comes to the Toronto Maple Leafs. While the fans have an almost insatiable appetite for information, the coverage sometimes gets a bit ridiculous, as journalists leave no stone unturned in their quest for storylines.

This approach leads to numerous hot takes, when it comes to certain subject matters. Which bring us to the topic of William Nylander.

When Nylander started the 2017/18 season with three goals and nine overall points in his first eight games, the media could not come up with enough superlatives for him. And then it all (apparently) went wrong.

Over the next 15 contests, the 2014 eighth overall draft pick registered just one goal and five overall points. Suddenly, all the media could talk about was how he was in a major slump, as they wondered what was wrong with him.

(At this point, please note the title of this article is essentially making fun of the Toronto media’s propensity to give the impression the sky is falling when something goes wrong, regardless of how minor the reported incident might be.)

Even as Nylander “recovered” to record an assist in each of his next three games, it didn’t matter. TSN‘s Mark Masters commented on how the normally cool, calm and collected youngster looked extremely frustrated during a Nov. 16 contest against the New Jersey Devils.

Ironically, the 21-year-old would go on to score the overtime winner in that game. However, even this didn’t seem to matter, as it represented his only goal in 18 appearances.

As a result, Sportsnet‘s Mike Johnston suggested this slump could impact Nylander’s ability to secure a long-term deal after this season. Johnston essentially wrote his second contract could instead end up turning into a bridge-type deal.

However, as most hockey fans are aware, a player’s season is often filled with peaks and troughs. It’s just the Toronto media likes to magnify these ups and downs.

Nylander gave the ideal response to all the recent publicity on Thursday night, against the Edmonton Oilers. He had his first three-point game of the season, including his fifth goal of the campaign.

One productive game does not a season make, but to this point the Calgary native does now have six overall points in his last four appearances. So, was he ever really playing that bad, or was it much ado about nothing?

Of course the Leafs and their fans would like to see a player with Nylander’s fantastic upside scoring more goals. However, his 15 assists lead the way for a team which has the most goals in the NHL, entering Saturday’s slate of games.

More from Toronto Maple Leafs

Sometimes, media and fans alike forget how young the forward is; you can make an argument he is actually ahead of his projected development at this stage of his career. And even when times have been tough this season — not helped by some bad luck — he was still working hard.

Leafs coach Mike Babcock undoubtedly appreciated Nylander’s continued effort. He also did his best to boost the player’s confidence, including playing him on different lines.

Again though, you have to wonder if things were ever really that bad. Consider that if you prorate the Swedish international’s points production over the course of the season, it translates to virtually the same total as the previous campaign, albeit with less goals (but also more assists).

Further, while people are split on the relevance of the plus/minus rating, Nylander has a +11 rating through 27 games, whereas last season he finished with a -3 rating. All in all, if there was something wrong with him, god help the rest of the NHL if he’s now back on form!

Next: Leafs shouldn't trade for Ryan McDonagh

What’s your take on Nylander’s play up to this point? Were you worried at all with his production? Or did you just ignore the articles expressing concern about his form for the Toronto Maple Leafs? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.