3 Ways to Turn the Toronto Maple Leafs into Real Cup Contenders

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - OCTOBER 27: William Nylander #88 of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrates getting the game-winning goal in overtime against the Chicago Blackhawks with teammate Rasmus Sandin #38 at the United Center on October 27, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. The Maple Leafs defeated the Blackhawks 3-2 in overtime. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - OCTOBER 27: William Nylander #88 of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrates getting the game-winning goal in overtime against the Chicago Blackhawks with teammate Rasmus Sandin #38 at the United Center on October 27, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. The Maple Leafs defeated the Blackhawks 3-2 in overtime. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /
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Toronto Maple Leafs
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 24: Joshua Ho-Sang #26 of the New York Islanders  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

Relentless Offense

Though I by no means claim to be even well-versed on the topic, one thing I’ve always enjoyed reading about hockey strategy.

Strategy is one of the most interesting things about any game, and sometimes I think that the Toronto Maple Leafs strategy is all wrong for their team.  The Leafs believe in puck possession over everything else, and this is a smart strategy because puck-possession is the common denominator for winning hockey games.   Over time, the team that has the puck the most is the most likely team to win.

The Leafs know this and they play in a way that leads to puck possession – short  passes to get up the ice, and a tendency to hold the puck and try for a better chance, rather than to just take any shot and hope for the best.

I think this is a generally sound strategy, but that it underuses the Leafs best feature, which is their offensive talent. Most teams don’t have a version of Marner, Nylander, Matthews and Tavares.

Without exception, everyone on the Leafs blue-line is an above-average puck mover for their role and lineup spot.  The forwards feature four superstars, and they have the option of using Ondrej Kase, Josh Ho-Sang and Nick Robertson to increase the offense.

With this group of players, the Leafs should be able to skate other teams into the ground with their relentless offense.  Instead, they play a fairly safe game that almost never gets them breakaways or odd-man rushes.

Given the makeup of their team, I believe this is a strategic mistake.  I don’t think they should abandon their puck-possession bread and butter, but I do think that they should alter it a bit to account for their shooting talent.

Even on the power-play, I see them consistently waste chances for an odd-man rush in order to patiently set up their system.  Whenever the PK has a player deep, the Leafs tend to forgo  a long pass to create an odd-man situation in favor of setting up patiently.  (At least, this is my observation, and it is entirely possible this is confirmation bias and that the stats wouldn’t back this up, though I would they would).

I do think the Leafs, as made up today, are one of the NHL’s best teams.  But if they want to make up the gap between them and the Lightning and Avalanche, they should play to their strengths, as well as focus on developing a star prospect and acquiring some non-superficial physicality.

dark. Next. The 10 Most Incorrect Things the Leafs Early Season Struggles Were Blamed On

Also, that and immediately promote Josh Ho-Sang to the NHL.