Toronto Maple Leafs: Re-Imagining the Power-Play

Toronto Maple Leafs - Mitchell Marner (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Toronto Maple Leafs - Mitchell Marner (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Maple Leafs power-play cost them massively last season.

If the Toronto Maple Leafs power-play was even league-average for the last half of the season, they would have waltzed to the first President’s Trophy in team history.

If the Leafs power-play was any good against Montreal, the Canadiens likely would have been done in four games.  As it was, the Leafs scored just four goals in seven games, while shooting nine percent and were only a +2 on the PP because they allowed a short-handed goal.

Injuries, the inability of Matthews and Marner to score, and uncalled headshots all combined to keep the Leafs from the second round, but their incredible power-play, even without John Tavares, should have been able to overcome all that.

It didn’t.  So how do they fix it?

Toronto Maple Leafs Power-Play

The Leafs managed only 31 power-play goals in 56 games, good for 18th in the NHL. Considering their roster, that’s almost impossible to believe.  What’s even crazier, is that 23 of those goals came in the first 23 games of the season.

On March the 1st, after 23 games, the Leafs led the NHL in PP goals.   They then went on to score just eight more in the final 33 games.

For over half the schedule, the Leafs – with Matthews, Marner, Nylander, Tavares, Rielly all available to them – were second last in the NHL in total PP goals.

I’ve advocated for about three years that the Leafs should take more penalties if they want more power plays.  The NHL evens up calls, and the Leafs are consistently near the bottom in both penalties taken and power-plays awarded.

Since they should have the best PP in the league, this should be a winning strategy.  But first, they’ve got to figure out why their PP went cold. (all stats

I can guess: Auston Matthews is too good, and that makes the PP too predictable.

Having another shooter would go a long way towards making the Leafs PP harder to defend.  Nick Robertson, who has the best shot in the organization after Matthews, should be set up on the opposite side of Matthews and take enough shots to make him a useful decoy.

Also, William Nylander is by far the best player on the Leafs at entering the zone with the puck.  He might be the best at that particular skill in the NHL. He should be joined at the hip with Matthews on power-plays.

Finally, move Mitch Marner to the second unit.  This is absolutely key.

Marner is a magician with the puck, but his talent is neutralized on the PP by always having to get it to Matthews.  With a man advantage, anyone can get Matthews the puck, Marner would be much better utilized by having him on the second unit where he can be as creative and selfish as he wants to be.

Four simple ways to get better: 1) take more penalties 2) Robertson on PP1 3) Nylander on PP1 4) Marner on PP 2.

Next. The Leafs Should Still Sign..... dark

That is how the Toronto Maple Leafs fix their power-play.