Toronto Maple Leafs: Mitch Marner Can Redeem Himself in 2021

ST LOUIS, MISSOURI - JANUARY 24: Mitch Marner #16 of the Toronto Maple Leafs poses for a portrait ahead of the 2020 NHL All-Star Game at Enterprise Center on January 24, 2020 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
ST LOUIS, MISSOURI - JANUARY 24: Mitch Marner #16 of the Toronto Maple Leafs poses for a portrait ahead of the 2020 NHL All-Star Game at Enterprise Center on January 24, 2020 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) /

By all accounts, Mitch Marner had a successful season for the Toronto Maple Leafs. But something was off with his game despite his offensive prowess.

When it comes to storylines surrounding the Toronto Maple Leafs, none was more controversial than Mitch Marner’s performance in the 2019-20 season.

Coming off a long and emotional contract dispute that saw him land a six-year $10.893 million contract, Marner didn’t set the league on fire the way many anticipated he would. While his stat line shows he played well (heck, he made the All-Star game), the lofty expectations placed on him made his season outlook appear to some as a “disappointment.”

Add to the fact that he was given the ‘A’ and his reputation tarnished by some fans based on the actions of the contract negotiations, and it’s easy to see why there’s a lot of pressure on Marner to take the next steps in his ascension among the NHL’s elite.

The 2020-21 season is Marner’s chance to redeem himself to the fans and further cement his place as one of the most important players of the Toronto Maple Leafs core.

Seemed off despite strong numbers

As alluded to above, Marner’s point totals from this past season can be impressive upon first glance. Throughout the campaign though, Marner didn’t really seem himself in spite of his offensive prowess.

Prior to play being paused, he recorded 16 goals, 51 assists, and 67 points in 59 games. Across a full season, he was on pace for 22 goals, 71 assists, and 93 points, which is one shy of matching his production from a year ago.

Additionally, his underlying numbers are good as he boasted a 52.82 CF%, a 52.97 FF%, a 52.67 SF%, a 55.36 xGF%, a 54.83 SCF%, and a 53.01 HDCF% at 5v5. He even helped the team improve on offense, the power-play, and the penalty kill.

By all accounts, that is an impressive season to follow up on what was his statistically best season from last season. And he made his first All-Star appearance to boot. It was, however, not all sunshine and roses for the 22-year-old winger.

Marner struggled a bit to recapture the magic he had alongside John Tavares consistently to start the season. While he was far from the main problem, it was part of a sluggish start that ultimately led to Mike Babcock’s dismissal.

He then missed a month of playing time due to an ankle injury, before being moved to a new line with Auston Matthews. While he did find immediate success (including a five-point game against the Carolina Hurricanes), he went through a dry spell of goal scoring with just two goals over a 15 game stretch before the break.

It didn’t help that William Nylander was having a huge bounce-back season that included a nine-game point streak. All of that while spending the latter half of the season playing alongside Tavares.

A blimp on the radar

Perhaps all of this, combined with the emotional burden placed on him following the 2019 off-season, played a factor in a season that was impressive statistically but felt somewhat lacking. But that doesn’t mean Marner’s can’t endear himself to the fans again.

As stated earlier, Marner found new life when slotted alongside Matthews midway through the season. He did go through a stretch of limited goals, but that was while he posted 10 points during that same 15 game stretch. Players go through droughts all the time, and he did so while remaining second on the team in scoring.

Marner has been pretty lucky in terms of his health, with this being the first season he missed significant time due to an injury since his rookie campaign. With enough time to heal and fully recover from the ankle injury, it’s hard not to think he will return hungry and motivated to get back on track.

Sure, there will be some fans that will never view him in a favorable light due to how his party handled the contract negotiations last off-season and how he nearly got offer sheeted. But Marner can make the majority of the fanbase glad he is part of the team by continuing to improve his all-around game.

By all accounts, the type of season Marner went through seems like an anomaly and not the start of a trend. Even if it were the latter, he will be doing so as one of the leading point-getters on the Toronto Maple Leafs.

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All stats unless otherwise noted are from and Natural Stat Trick.

Regardless of whether the season resumes or many months pass until the next game is played, Marner has a golden opportunity to repair his image and vindicate himself as the lovable kid living his childhood dream.