Yesterday morning, Dave Feschuk and Steve Simmons met on the radio to talk hockey, and the subject of William Nylander came up. Their take below thanks to the transcribing of Platinum Seat Ghosts:
Simmons: “on the nights where William Nylander has tried hard, I’ve been impressed”
Feschuk: “well that’s not often”
— Platinum Seat Ghosts (@3rdPeriodSuits) November 22, 2016
There are a lot of reasons why this is ridiculous. He’s just a rookie, he’s been really good already, his usage hasn’t been ideal, it’s ignorant and toxic. But this is a story that puts a different spin on it all.
Have any readers heard of a man named Edson Arantes do Nascimento? You might know him better as Dico. Or perhaps, as Pelé, the Brazilian soccer legend.
If you didn’t follow his career, or see the movie based on his life, the story of Pelé goes like this: a young soccer phenom makes a pro team playing a “primitive” but effective style known as The Ginga Style. In the movie version, his nickname Pelé comes from being made fun of by rich kids who gave him the name to mock the style he played.
Also in the movie, Pelé plays for a coach who refuses to let him (and his teammates) play the Ginga Style, in favour of a more structured and strategic game like their opponents played. And, the media continually rips on Pelé whenever he uses the Ginga, suggesting it could never succeed on the big stage against the structured game of the elite European football teams.
SPOILER: The Ginga Style eventually helps Pelé defeat the Swedish team for the World Cup on Swedish soil. A beautiful moment. I cried.
Now, how does this all relate to William Nylander? Well, in the NHL it would be reasonable to relate Nylander’s play to the Ginga. His elegant control of the puck and smooth skating are a beautiful thing to watch. But hacks and haters tend to disregard its beauty. And while they scowl from the sidelines, those who play The Beautiful Game go on dominating without a bother.
So what could we call Nylander that isn’t an insult, but some would use it as one, similar to Pelé? I dunno, how about “European”?
Anyway, Nylander has been good in all the statistical categories you would want (1.3 5v5 P60, +2.36 CF Rel, 14 total points in 18 games). Also, he’s still just a rookie. How one could go about insulting his effort when he’s been so clearly good is baffling. But similar to the Brazilian media dismissing Pelé, these two members of the Toronto media are starting to dismiss Nylander the same way they and others like them have dismissed elite scoring talents who have come through Toronto in the past (Sundin and Kessel, namely).
Thankfully, even though the Feschuk and Simmons are playing the same part as the Brazilian media, Babcock refuses to play the same part of the Brazilian National Team coach. Nylander is still playing a top-6 role with this team, and will continue to for the foreseeable future. Undoubtedly, Babcock sees what I see, and what many other Nylander-lovers see is that his calm approach to the game is not a fault, but an asset.
Feschuk and Simmons going in this direction isn’t really surprising. They’ve continued to be either ignorant or willfully toxic content producers for years now. But it’s important to head this Nylander take off as soon as possible because it wouldn’t be surprising to see catching steam among the more ignorant side of hockey fandom. Because where some might see a lack of effort, it’s important to notice patience. And where some see unreliability, it’s important to remember the inherent streakiness of scoring.
Leafs fans can hope that the story of William Nylander is one of redemption and heroics like that of Pelé. Or, in the meantime, they can just appreciate that he’s already really, really good.