Could the Toronto Maple Leafs try something bold and move Mitch Marner to center?
Obviously Mitch Marner has some history as a center, albeit in his much earlier hockey years, and the Toronto Maple Leafs have John Tavares as their second-line center.
However, there’s certainly elements of Marner’s game that suggest that it might be a worthwhile experiment to at least give a try this coming season.
Marner is an elite defender, while Tavares is not. Tavares lack of speed may be less apparent on the wing, and the Leafs could likely get more value out of each player by making the switch.
The goal of this move would be to get the most value possible out of the current lineup, while extending Tavares’ life as an elite player. The theory is, that without the defensive responsibilities of playing centre, and that by moving to a position where his lack of speed will be less of a hinderance, that Tavares will age more gracefully, and be worth something approximating his current salary for longer.
Should the Toronto Maple Leafs Move Marner to Center?
Mitch Marner is able to drive play at this time in a much more effective way that Tavares, and Marner has shown an ability to play a much more rounded 200-foot game, especially with his contributions in the past couple of seasons on the penalty-kill.
There is no reason to think that Marner would have any trouble adapting to centre. Historically, centre is a much more valuable position than wing, and so as much as this move is about helping Tavares, it likely makes Marner more valuable as well.
In moving Marner to centre, you’d be splitting up one of the NHL’s best lines, but Matthews, Bunting and Nylander likely wouldn’t be that much worse, and the second line would be much better, making it a win for the Leafs overall.
Tavares and Marner have always had great chemistry. albeit with the captain as center; there’s nothing to say they wouldn’t be able to rekindle that chemistry.
The Toronto Maple Leafs, when they committed all that money to four forwards, were hoping to have two lines that were first-line equivalent. It’s not clear that they received what they wanted from their second line this past season, and so by moving Marner to centre, they may get more value out of the money they’ve already spent.