The Toronto Maple Leafs Need to Play This Lineup for the Playoffs

Toronto Maple Leafs bench (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Toronto Maple Leafs bench (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /
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Toronto Maple Leafs
Jan 22, 2022; Elmont, New York, USA; New York Islanders defenseman Zdeno Chara (33) and Toronto Maple Leafs   Mandatory Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports /

Fourth Line: Wayne Simmonds/Ondrej Kase – Colin Blackwell – Kyle Clifford/Nick Abruzeze

The fourth line for the Toronto Maple Leafs should be this trio of gritty players.

The entire goal of the fourth line is to be that “energy trio” who can go on a heavy forecheck and wreck havoc every chance they get.

Wayne Simmonds has been one of the most feared fighters in the league (with some people being called “stupid” by their teammates for wanting to fight him since 2013), and Kyle Clifford was a known tough guy in his time with the Los Angeles Kings.

Watching Colin Blackwell, he isn’t the biggest guy on the ice but he has the makings of being a great pest. His speed and eagerness to lay the body on the defense will only help him in this role. Playing the best players doesn’t mean you will win. It is about finding the guys who can play the role the team needs in order to succeed. Having four skill lines won’t work in today’s NHL.

The scheme on offense is quite simple for this line: Pass the puck to the point, two guys (preferably Simmonds and Clifford) screening the goaltender, and all three forwards crashing the net after the SOG. They should not move after the whistle, either, but rather stand in front of the goalie as much as they can until the opposing defensemen or refs make them move. They should dump and chase, with an aggressive forecheck, hitting whoever touches the puck.

The fourth line is really where the physical players are slotted, those who are not the best at offense, but are strong enough to hold their own in front of the net, and the willingness (or eagerness) to play physically the second you are on the ice. They should be fast as well, or they will be liabilities. This line seems to have the makings of a solid energy “checking” line, and the scheme is rather simple for them to execute.

I wouldn’t mind Nick Abruzzese on the four line to replace Clifford if he becomes irrelevant in the series. I don’t feel comfortable placing Ondrej Kase here due to the expectation of physicality and his history of head injuries, but I don’t know where else he would work given the forward depth the Maple Leafs possess.

On to the third line.