Most fans expected the Toronto Maple Leafs to be top contender for the Stanley Cup this time around, however, the start to the 2023-24 season hasn’t convincing… especially when the Maple Leafs are getting compared to the defending champions Vegas Golden Knights or the surprising Vancouver Canucks.
That’s what Sportsnet’s Jason Bukala did, comparing the Golden Knights and Canucks to the Maple Leafs to see why the latter hasn’t gotten as much success in the first games of the calendar.
Bukala exposes one of the main issues in Toronto with their secondary layers are chipping in offence. He points out how “Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, John Tavares and Morgan Rielly, who have contributed 31 goals and 42 assists between them. The rest of the roster has only provided 10 goals and 28 assists combined.”
This is how Bukala explains what might need to be done in Toronto with GM Brad Treliving looking for solutions:
“Toronto, by a wide margin, relies too heavily on its top five scorers to produce compared to the rest of their team. They significantly lack a secondary layer of scoring, whereas the Golden Knights and Canucks have a more balanced lineup.
"Toronto might end up having a wonderful regular season and have high hopes heading into the playoffs again, but teams will clamp down more on the top end of their lineup in the second half of the season. If they don’t start scoring more from the middle of the lineup, the Leafs will have little to no chance for extended success because they will be too easy to check.”
This could mean we might see a very busy couple of weeks ahead of the trade deadline in March.
For now, Bukala hopes head coach Sheldon Keefe will be able to find the right combinations that can result in more offence.
Or else something or someone will have to go in Toronto…
On Wednesday morning, ahead of the Leafs' game against the visiting Ottawa Senators, Keefe mixed up some of his lines, putting young forward Matthew Knies on the first line with Matthews and Marner. Let's see how that works out later tonight.