2:00pm: Thornton has been moved to long-term injured reserve, meaning he must miss at least ten games and 24 days. It will give the Maple Leafs some added cap flexibility in his absence but certainly won’t excite many fans that were holding out hope for a quick comeback.
9:45am: The Toronto Maple Leafs will be without the services of Joe Thornton for at least the next month, as head coach Sheldon Keefe told reporters including Kristen Shilton of TSN this morning that the veteran forward suffered a fractured rib in Wednesday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers. For at least one game, Toronto will actually be missing two-thirds of their top line as Auston Matthews is also listed as day-to-day with upper-body soreness and will not play tonight. Pierre Engvall, Alexander Barabanov, and Adam Brooks will be inserted into the lineup.
The Maple Leafs’ forward depth has already been an issue this season, with Thornton, Barabanov, Jimmy Vesey, Wayne Simmonds, Ilya Mikheyev, Jason Spezza, and Nick Robertson combining for just two goals and five points through the first five games. That’s a total of 27 games played from the depth forwards without much to show for it, as Toronto has relied heavily on their top guns to carry the offensive load. Now with Matthews—who was averaging more than 23 minutes a game through the early part of the season—out, the team will need someone else to step up and put the puck in the net.
For Thornton, missing a month in a condensed season is much more concerning. The 41-year-old legend could miss a quarter of the 56-game schedule, meaning his spot on the top line will have to be filled with someone else as he works to get back into the lineup. It’s hard to know how long he’ll take to get back up to speed and whether he’ll be able to contribute at the level he is used to.