Toronto Maple Leafs: John Tavares Line Needs More Ice-Time

John Tavares and William Nylander lead the Toronto Maple Leafs in goals through three games, despite playing roughly five minutes less than the first-line.

I know that it’s only been three games, but Tavares and Nylander should not be averaging 17 minutes per night, compared to Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner’s 23 minutes. Matthews and Marner are the better option and should be playing more, but five extra minutes is a lot of ice-time, especially when JT and Nylander have been producing.

The Toronto Maple Leafs are lucky to have two first-lines. As a result, the coaching staff should do everything to play these players the majority of the game. I know that some nights you’re going to be on the power-play or penalty-kill more often, but Nylander, Tavares, Matthews and Marner should be on the ice for 70 percent of 5v5 play.

With almost 50 percent of their salary cap distributed to these four players, they need to be on the ice as much as possible. Everyone knows that if these players don’t produce, they don’t win, so the coaching staff needs to play them like that.

Toronto Maple Leafs Second Line Needs More TOI

Although you can plot out ice-time pre-game, many things happen throughout where you need to adjust. However, in a perfect world, this is how I’d love to see the ice-time distributed.

  • First Line: Joe Thornton (17 minutes) – Auston Matthews (23 minutes) – Mitch Marner (23 minutes)
  • Second Line: Jimmy Vesey (17 minutes) – John Tavares (20 minutes) – William Nylander (20 minutes)
  • Third Line: Zach Hyman (21 minutes) – Alex Kerfoot (12 minutes) – Ilya Mikheyev (12 minutes)
  • Fourth Line: Adam Brooks (5 minutes) – Jason Spezza (5 minutes) – Wayne Simmonds (5 minutes)

Obviously this isn’t going to happen every night, but I’d like to see as little of the fourth line as possible. Through the first three games, the line hasn’t done much to begin with and they only need to play a few shifts per period to help give rest for the top-nine forwards.

I’ve loved the energy that Wayne Simmonds has brought, so maybe he deserves a few more minutes per night, but even in that short timeframe of ice-time, he can make an impact. Whether it’s throwing one big hit per period or getting into a fight, Simmonds can be efficient even if he’s not playing much.

However, let’s go back to my original point of more ice-time for JT and Nylander.

Both of these players are world-class talent’s and are not going to be a liability if they’re given more ice-time. Nylander can sometimes get into trouble on the defensive end, but it’s something he’s getting better at every night. As a result, more ice time for these two players should only result in more scoring chances and a better shot at winning every night.

The last thing anyone wants to see is Sheldon Keefe morphing into Mike Babcock, so although he’s doing a great job at playing Matthews and Marner a ton, he needs to do the same for Tavares and Nylander.