There will be some new faces in blue and white when the Toronto Maple Leafs finally take the ice for the 2020-21 season.
Chief among them will be the bearded mug of Joe Thornton. While playing with new teammates can take some getting used to, Maple Leafs star Mitch Marner knows exactly what to expect of the veteran playmaker thanks to former linemate Patrick Marleau.
In a Tuesday appearance on Tim and Sid, Marner said he and Auston Matthews, who developed a close bond with Marleau during his two seasons in Toronto, heard plenty about “Jumbo.” After all, Marleau and Thornton helped lead the Sharks to four division titles and a Stanley Cup final in the decade-plus they shared together in San Jose.
“Throughout Patty’s time here he’s talked to me and Auston a good amount about Jumbo, just says … (he) keeps everything light, has a great time, but on the ice, he’s a competitive guy. He plays hard and he wants to win,” Marner said.
“I’m excited. I mean, everything I’ve heard about him, he just seems like an unbelievable dude, and Patty’s always relayed that back to us. I’m excited to get talking to him, and as soon as he signed I sent him a big text saying, ‘Super excited to have him,’ And I think he’s going to do a lot.”
Despite being 41 — nearly twice Marner’s age (23) — Thornton put up 31 points in 70 games for a lowly Sharks squad in 2019-20. He joined the Leafs on a one-year, $700,000 contract in the fall.
Marner also expressed his excitement over the Leafs’ other off-season additions — including TJ Brodie, Zach Bogosian and Wayne Simmonds — with the team putting an emphasis on adding veterans to surround its young core.
“They’re all hungry,” Marner said. “They want to win and I think that’s what we need on our team — we need those guys to keep us in line and keep us going every single day.”
Simmonds — who signed a one-year, $1.5-million with his hometown club — is the one who has caught Marner’s attention so far.
“I think he’s hungry, he wants to prove to everyone that he’s still the player that he is. I’ve been seeing him on the ice recently, and he’s been looking like a beast out there,” Marner said of Simmonds, who had 25 points in 68 games combined with the New Jersey Devils and Buffalo Sabres last season.
“I’ve been watching him on the half-wall, down low, when he’s got that puck and it’s hard to get it off him. He’s a big man and he can control that puck and around the net — he doesn’t miss the net very often — it’s pretty impressive to watch.”