James van Riemsdyk stepping up for Maple Leafs
By: Mark Zwolinski Sports reporter, Published on Tue Oct 13 2015
Dion Phaneuf, unquestionably, is the captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
But a question mark continues to hover as to which player is the team’s most dominant player, their on-ice leader.
James van Riemsdyk, in some corners, was unofficially given that lofty title. The loss of former linemate Phil Kessel certainly left the big winger with the opportunity to repeat as the team’s leading scorer, a title he earned a year ago, even with Kessel in the fold.
For now, there is more ground work to cover before van Riemsdyk can comfortably assume any perch as the team’s bonafide leader, whether it’s official or not.
He is, undeniably, within the brackets of the top three players on the team.
As the Leafs grind out four consecutive practices this week, van Riemsdyk’s true potential is being further defined in a familiar area to him — down low, around the opposition team’s net.
“Obviously he’s a big talented guy, with good hands. We’re in the process of trying to help him become a more dominant player around the cycle,” Babcock said as the Leafs had an off-ice workout Tuesday.
“I think he can do that, I think he’s working hard at that, he’s been really open and receptive to feedback. I think he can be a real important player for us. As long as a guy wants to get better, you won’t have much trouble helping him. That’s important.”