Jake Muzzin is vital to the Toronto Maple Leafs defense; heck, he is the Leafs defense.
Sure, Reilly is the better player, but Morgan’s qualities are more easily interchangeable with what the Buds have to plug the hole when he’s not dressed. The Toronto Maple Leafs don’t have an answer for when Jack Muzzin is out of the lineup.
What Jake Muzzin brings to the table, nobody on the Leafs D has what it takes to replicate.
Therefore he is their most important player.
Jake Muzzin and the Toronto Maple Leafs
Since being acquired from the Kings, Jake Muzzin has been vital to stability for an overloaded, high-performance team. He gave the Leafs a backbone when they never had one. He’s the grizzled vet and a respected leader who has won the Cup – a guy who can be leaned on and trusted game-in and game-out. And when he’s out of action, the Leafs have felt pain. Real pain.
No doubt, he’s “the man” – on-and-off the ice – and the Leafs most important player.
Since his first season with the Leafs in 2018-19, he has missed a total of 24 regular season games: 3 in 2018-19, 17 in 2019-20, 3 in 2020-21, and 1 so far in 2021-22.
In those games, the Leafs are 11-9-4 and a .500 hockey club.
When Jake Muzzin busted his foot in 2019-20, the Leafs hurt for 10 games, going 4-3-3 without him. Fifteen games later, they lost him to a busted hand and missed him for 6 more games, going 3-2-1 in his absence.
Doesn’t exactly inspire confidence when “the man” is out of the lineup, does it?
Trouble in Paradise?
The Leafs are off to a hot start in 2021-22. They are running with the purebreds at the top of the division, and all seems to be running smoothly.
It hasn’t been all great, though: there was that sloppy start out of the gates; but, the Leafs bounced back quickly and went on an incredible run to the top of the Atlantic.
Also, backup G Mrazek went down early; but, Woll stepped in and made you wonder why Dubas signed Mrazek in the first place. And, how could one forget Matthews’ scoring slump only to have the rest of the bunch pick up the slack. Then, there was Marner’s “freak” accident – skating into the man of the rink himself; but, lines were juggled, other players stepped up, and all was good.
However, as reported, Jake Muzzin is now out with a concussion, and a real challenge is upon the Leafs. How long he’s out is anyone’s guess, but we all know how these things can go – it’s something you can’t simply shrug away. (stats hockeyrefecence.com).
The Leafs are likely preparing for him to be out longer because that seems to be the likeliest scenario. The Leafs will leave nothing to chance with the man of the house. Time and care are going to be taken.
So. now the real test of the season begins. The most important player on the Leafs is down and out, and they now find themselves in a position that leaves them very vulnerable.
There’s no replacing Jake Muzzin. The Leafs (still) don’t have anyone with his skill-set, but really, all-around D like him are akin to a dying breed, much like the power-forward.
There are options, though, and Dubas should look into them. Without Jake Muzzin long-term, the Leafs are in trouble. Big trouble. That much is clear.