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) /
facebooktwitterreddit
Prev
4 of 4
Next
TORONTO, ON – OCTOBER 21: Mitchell Marner #16 of the Toronto Maple Leafs . (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON – OCTOBER 21: Mitchell Marner #16 of the Toronto Maple Leafs . (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /

Overhaul the Penalty Kill Unit

While it’s no secret that the Leafs team defensive issues are ones that will take a while to solve, one that they can at least improve upon is their lacklustre penalty-kill.

I’ve already mentioned in the past that the Leafs should be looking at outside help to improve the shorthanded unit by going after guys like Blake Coleman. With the trade deadline long passed, there will need to be internal progressions in order to make the squad as good as they can. Which won’t be easy given that the Leafs currently sit in the bottom half of the league in PK%.

Now it is true that the team did improve in this department since Keefe was hired as coach, but it can be argued that the improvements were marginal and that the Leafs are still adjusting to the new system. And it will need to be learned quickly as part of why they fell to the Bruins in 2019 was due to the flaws of their penalty kill being exposed.

If there is a silver lining in all of this, Keefe is willing to try different line combinations and has some weapons that could help improve the team’s play down a man.

Mitch Marner has grown to be an effective penalty killer and should be given a larger role on the unit. Kasperi Kapanen and Pierre Engvall are both smart defensively and have the speed to burn to create shorthanded chances. Zach Hyman needs no introduction, Frederik Gauthier is good on the draw, and John Tavares has proven to be a difference-maker on the PK previously.

And that’s just the forwards. One defensive pairing has to be Justin Holl and Jake Muzzin as both have become the de facto shutdown duo. The second pair could involve one of Travis Dermott, Rasmus Sandin, and Morgan Rielly depending on who the coaching staff feels more comfortable with the defence.

Whichever direction the Leafs go, it is imperative that they improve the PK line combinations as it could mean the difference between a long or short playoff run. Given that it has been a problem for a while and was a pitfall in previous playoff appearances, the Leafs will need to find a way to change the shorthanded unit for the better.

Next. Toronto Maple Leafs: Predictions for When the NHL Season Resumes. dark

While the date of hockey’s return remains up in the air, the time off gives Keefe and the company a chance to think creatively at some strategies. The three suggestions mentioned are some they should look into and trying whenever that day comes.