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Frustration in Toronto as Kapanen's promotion to the Leafs' top line has yet to pay off

october 8, 2019
Following a 3-2 loss to the Stanely Cup Champion St. Louis Blues on Monday night, Toronto head coach Mike Babcock was quoted saying "Hyman's good, eh?"

Perhaps, reading between the lines, this could be interpreted as a subtle poke at critics who have heavily focused on the Tavares and Marner duo, who tend to be electric together on the ice, while undervaluing what Zach Hyman brought to the line in the 2018-19 Season. Hyman managed 21 goals and 20 assists in 71 games last year, in addition to taking the ice with a torn ACL during the Leafs' round one playoff battle with the Boston Bruins, showing a mountain of dedication to the team and the desire to win.

This statement also holds weight in regards to Kasperi Kapanen and his newfound promotion to the Maple Leafs' top line. Kapanen, who is working with just one full season at the NHL level and has been thrown onto an unnatural left wing spot, has struggled through four games and has had to deal with fingers pointed in his direction multiple times since opening day.

Since the start of this season, Kapanen has held the worst +/- on the roster, currently sitting at -4. Thus far, he has yet to bank a single point in four games. He has also been the center of attention regarding the Leafs' 6-5 shootout loss, after a nonsensical penalty, in which a frustrated Kapanen threw a broken stick at a puck that was in play, while attempting to kill a penalty.Jeff Petry of the Montreal Canadiens was awarded a penalty shot on the play and would then capitalize on the opportunity and tie the game. The Habs would go on to win the game in a shootout and leave Toronto with a well earned two points.

Kapanen has also been mentioned as a monumental factor in Alex Pietrangelo's game winning goal on Monday night in Toronto, as Kapanen was beat down low, allowing the St. Louis Blues captain to fire off the game winner. Kapanen was quoted as saying "Its my guy, I should've seen he was going that low," a realization that came a little to late for the Leafs' newly promoted top winger. Kapanen, who's speed received praise on the Leaf's bottom six, has yet to hear those same kind words in regards to his play on the top of the Maple Leafs' roster.

Between chirping from critics', subtle comments from all around the NHL and some less than friendly words from the opposing bench, namely Max Domi of the Montreal Canadiens, it's clear that Kapanen's start to the 2019-20 season has been anything but smooth.

“I know what to do. There’s not much to it," Kapanen told Sportsnet. "It’s still hockey. I know how to play hockey. I just have to get into the groove.”

Though it was stated as a 'cautious estimate,' the Leaf's aspire to see Zach Hyman back on the ice as early as November, as per GM Kyle Dubas. Given what we've seen from Kapanen, it seems apparent that when Hyman is ready to return to the ice, his spot as a top line performer will be there and waiting for him.

So you think Hyman will get his old spot back once he returns?
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