3 Changes the Toronto Maple Leafs Should Make If Play Resumes

TORONTO, ON - JUNE 8: Toronto Maple Leafs' Assistant General Manager Kyle Dubas announced today that Sheldon Keefe has been named head coach of the Toronto Marlies. (Carlos Osorio/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - JUNE 8: Toronto Maple Leafs' Assistant General Manager Kyle Dubas announced today that Sheldon Keefe has been named head coach of the Toronto Marlies. (Carlos Osorio/Toronto Star via Getty Images) /
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NEWARK, NEW JERSEY – DECEMBER 27: Morgan Rielly #44 of the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
NEWARK, NEW JERSEY – DECEMBER 27: Morgan Rielly #44 of the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

#1: Move Morgan Rielly to the Top PP Unit

The past season saw Rielly take a step back in terms of offensive production, but also showed his value to the team when he wasn’t present in the lineup.

We will take this opportunity to give Rielly a chance to succeed in a position he has found success in the past: part of the first power-play (PP) squad.

Part of the reason why he was “demoted” to the second unit was to give Tyson Barrie, who was also struggling to start the campaign, a chance to get back on track and implement a different element to the nucleus of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares, and William Nylander.

By all accounts, the switch worked as the Leafs are sixth in the league in PP% with 45 goals scored on the man advantage. And their success rate improved when compared to the previous season.

They are 2nd in the NHL in G/60 on the PP since Keeef took over, only falling out of first place during the last week of the season.

Here’s the thing: when observing the Leafs PP in 2019-20, it was frustrating to watch at times the number of missed opportunities of scoring chances.

I don’t mean to beat a dead horse here, but Barrie’s shot selection was oftentimes stress-inducing, to say the least. While it sometimes worked, his point shots were regularly either blocked in the lane or off-target.

It might be staggering to think that the Leafs stuck with him in that spot for so long, but there were little alternatives to choose given Rielly’s injury.

This was also in part due to assistant coach Paul McFarland’s strategy of using the point man to blast a shot through traffic with a chance at a redirection. It may have worked in Florida, but it wasn’t as successful in Toronto.

Given that McFarland is due to depart the team at season’s end and with Rielly back to full health, it only makes sense to experiment with putting the latter back on the top unit in an effort to him going.

With Barrie’s long-term future in Toronto uncertain, it might be worth-while to alternate between the two players depending on the situation and providing the squad more options for set-ups and sequences.

Putting Rielly back on the top PP unit might be a solution to helping the Leafs find more success on the man advantage. Even if they are given minimal chances on the PP.