Point one: Why would Patrick Maroon suit Toronto
Maple Leafs blogger Mike Augello yesterday proposed a series of attackers the team could look for and one of the players on their list was Patrick Maroon. Truth be told, I hadn’t considered him a possible attacker that the team could target, but I should have.
I watched Maroon play with the Edmonton Oilers while I was still a professor at the University of Alberta. In the 2016-17 season, he had a great season, scoring 27 goals and 15 assists in 81 games. Although he was traded from the Oilers to the New Jersey Devils in February 2018 for a third-round pick and hope in 2019 JD Dudek, Maroon made the NHL tour but was a contributing member of the St. Louis Blues winner of the Stanley Cup.
Currently, he is completing a $ 900,000 one year contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning. It just might be a cheaper, bigger, and more qualified version of Kyle Clifford. The two physical attackers are 6 feet 2 inches tall, but Maroon has 25 pounds on the badass of the Maple Leafs whose contract also ends after this season. Clifford, 29, is three years younger but also more expensive. Maroon also had consistently better production and showed hands to take advantage of the chances by playing with the top six on a team.
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Clifford won’t be looking for a huge contract, but the money saved helps. After joining the team with alternate goaltender Jack Campbell, general manager Kyle Dubas noted that Clifford had been on his radar for a while. The Maple Leafs could use a little more courage and physique to face and overcome the challenge that the Boston Bruins present each year.
However, Maroon could stay with the Lightning because, even for a smaller contract, taxes are lower in Florida. In addition, Maroon is an American citizen who was raised in St. Louis and that may be important.
But I can see his appeal to the Maple Leafs and I personally loved him as a player. He’s a straight guy.
Point two: William Nylander’s growing production since Sheldon Keefe took over as coach
When Sheldon Keefe succeeded Mike Babcock as head coach, William Nylander’s life on ice changed for the better. In fact, he had a chance to do something for which he proved to be very good, and that is to help the power play. Before Keefe’s arrival as coach, Nylander had some time in power play, but only because his teammates John Tavares and Mitch Marner were injured.
Keefe saw Nylander as an added value on the power play unit and imagined him settling in front of the net where he could use his quick reflexes and his precise shot to hit the rebounds of the house. Keefe was right.
As a result of these changes in the power play, the unit’s success increased from 20.7% (11th in the NHL) to 26.5% (second in the NHL). Individually, after Keefe took over, Auston Matthews scored 18 power points, Marner scored 17, Tavares scored 16 and Nylander scored 14. However, Nylander showed that he can be a finisher and his eight power play goals (again since Keefe took more) tied him for the first time with Matthews.
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Since Keefe, Nylander’s production has increased to follow Matthews, Marner and Tavares. In fact, after Keefe became the coach, the team’s top scorers were Matthews (53 points), Marner (49 points), Tavares (46 points) and Nylander (with 42 points).
Point three: Sheldon Keefe Up-Tempo, Puck-Control offensive identity
Looking at the Maple Leafs regular season, the team finished 36-25-9 and entered the Stanley Cup qualifying round as the eighth seeded Eastern Conference seed. They will play the ninth seeded Columbus Blue Jackets 33-22-15 in a top five streak, with the winner qualifying for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The season has been awkward because, although the list hasn’t changed much, there were two different teams – one coached by Babcock and the second coached by Keefe – with different identities. In the end, it’s clear that Keefe’s attack with high tempo and puck control pushed the Maple Leafs high in the playoffs.
For better or for worse, the identity established this season under Keefe will be the vision carried for the foreseeable future. Toronto’s 27-15-5 record after Keefe was replaced by Babcock increased the number of goals scored and the Maple Leafs led the NHL with 3.51 goals per game after the change of coach. The team also scored at least four goals in more than half of its games (especially 25 of 47 games).
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What remains to be seen is how this new identity translates into the playoffs and perhaps the Blue Jackets are the perfect litmus test. The Blue Jackets are “stingy” and allowed the third fewer goals per game in the 2019-20 season. Captain Nick Foligno has already said he believes his team could repeat last year’s playoff success against the offensive juggernaut of the Maple Leafs, who scored the third most goals in the NHL in 2019. -2020.
What’s the next step for the Maple Leafs?
Interestingly, the Maple Leafs seem to feel disrespect – somewhere. In a Zoom media call a few days ago, Morgan Rielly noted:
“We are very motivated … as players, we want to be as prepared as possible because we understand that there is a chance to come back and prove that some people are wrong … we have all had time to think about it and we have a chance to change the story a bit. ”
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It’s an interesting comment and suggests that the team has a bit of a chip on their shoulder. We will see how it goes.