The Toronto Maple Leafs and their fans received a double shot of good news this morning.
Not only is John Tavares back from the Covid Protocol and back practicing with the Toronto Maple Leafs, but so is Mitch Marner.
Out since December 1st, when he had two points in a beat-down of the Avalanche (remember that 8-3 drubbing of the NHL’s best Western Conference team? It was amazing) Marner is back at practice, which is where he was when Jake Muzzin ran him down and put him on the I.R with a shoulder injury.
Since the Leafs had six games postponed, the Leafs get to play six more games with Marner in the lineup. That’s a pretty incredible silver lining, since he is their second-best player and a player who is in competition to be the NHL’s 3rd best player after Matthews and McDavid.
Toronto Maple Leafs and Mitch Marner
Besides scoring the 2nd most points in the NHL last season at 5v5, and despite being denied 2nd place overall because of a bad-luck power-play that went ice cold, Marner also provided elite defense and strong penalty killing last season. (stats naturalstattrick.com).
Since he scored more than Leon Draisaitl and Nathan MacKinnon everywhere but the power-play, and since he did it while providing way better defense than both those players, it’s hard to understand why Marner isn’t considered the superior player, but then again, it usually takes the general public a while to catch up with reality.
Marner is supposedly having an off-year, but that’s a take so incredibly lazy it almost makes me sick to my stomach.
Marner started the season with just one assist in his first 7 games, and that really skewed his point production. Take out those seven games, and he’s scoring at a 97 point pace (more or less the same as his last two seasons).
Despite a positive expected-goals percentage during those 7 games, and despite generating six expected goals during this time, Marner (along with his linemates) shot zero percent during 5v5 play, so clearly they were just cold and unlucky (not to mention Matthews missed three of these games).
This season so far Marner’s on-ice shooting percentage is under 8% down over 4% from last season. That is really the only difference in his statistical profile – this year he has a slightly better Corsi, but he’s roughly the same in all non-counting stats.
The same as last year mans: Playing at an MVP level and one of the three or four best players in the world.
I don’t know how Mitch Marner turned into an underrated player, but here we are. Circumstances aside, Marner is working on his third straight 90 point (prorated) season. Marner scores just as much as his competition for third-best player in the NHL, but unlike everyone else (save Stone and Crosby) he provides elite defense too.
Marner is back, and the Leafs were on a 15-2 run when he went down. Since then, a still respectable 3-2-1, but obviously he is a difference maker and it’s great that he missed only half the games he should have.