The Toronto Maple Leafs have an incredibly deep team. Probably the deepest in the NHL.
Don’t believe me? Then please explain to me how they’re in first place, and have 80% of their possible points since their first (very unlucky) seven games of the season, despite never dressing their optimal, ideal lineup? Not even once.
It’s true. Just seven members of the Leafs have played in all 32 games so far (William Nylander, T.J Brodie, David Kampf, Morgan Rielly, Alex Kerfoot, Michael Bunting, and Pierre Engvall).
Matthews missed the first three games of the year, Mrazek has only played in three games, Ondrej Kase missed four games, Mitch Marner had a shoulder injury, Rasmus Sandin blew out his knee, and the entire team has pretty much had Covid.
Also, Ilya Mikheyev was injured in the pre-season and has only just played his first three games. Marner missed the first one, Muzzin missed the second one, and Kase missed the third one – ergo there have been zero games this year where Toronto iced their best lineup.
And yet, here we are, sitting in third by way of points-percentage.
The Toronto Maple Leafs Ideal Lineup
It’s pretty impressive to nearly be in first place almost halfway through the season , but it’s doubly so if you have done it without ever icing your best lineup.
The reason Nick Ritchie was waived this week was because the Leafs were about to do just that. Unfortunately, that move was ruined when Marner and Engvall were put on the Covid Protocol.
It will be at least five days (or is it ten? who can keep track!) before the Leafs ice their best lineup. But if they do, I think it would look like this:
Kerfoot – Tavares – Nylander
Engvall – Kampf – Kase
Mikheyev – Spezza – Simmonds
Rielly – Brodie
Muzzin – Holl
Sandin – Liljegren
Campbell – Mrazek
Now you can quibble with the position of Mikheyev and Engvall, and perhaps you prefer Holl lower or Dermott in the lineup, but those are just minor arguments – the Leafs haven’t used any variation of their best lineup.
Despite this, they are third in the NHL, and second in their division, and first since October 28th.
It’s an impressive streak, and yeah, I know you’d trade it in a second for a playoff round victory, but this accomplishment actually does make that more likely. It’s perhaps the most impressive thing anyone in the NHL has done this year.
Other than Trevor Zegras, obviously.