The Toronto Maple Leafs Blue-Line (Current Composition)
The Toronto Maple Leafs blue-line is assumed to be made up of these pairings *(though keep in mind that change can happen between now and the start of the season).
Morgan Rielly – TJ Brodie
Jake McCabe – Timothy Liljegren
Mark Giordano – John Klingberg
extras: Connor Timmins, Simon Benoit
This blue line features a 39 year-old, and 3 total players in their 30s. It also has 2 x 29 year-olds, both of whom will turn 30 this season, which basically makes this an ancient blue-line. Only Timothy Liljegren, 24, has any upside among regulars.
This is extremely concerning. Ideally you want a nice mix of young and old, but you definitely would prefer at least one player on an entry-level deal with some upside. The problem here is that players tend to take a nose-dive when they hit their 30s.
Elite players last longer, but the Leafs don’t have any elite players.
NHL players tend to have their best season from 23-25 and the Leafs only have a single player in that range, and it’s Liljegren a player clearly not trusted by the coach.
Brodie is a puck moving defenseman with elite defensive skills. This is his fourth season with the Leafs, and until now, he and Rielly made a pretty great top pairing since both were putting up star-level (if not truly ELITE) performances.
But the coach broke them up. Rielly has declined (amazing playoffs last year excepted) and so has Brodie. Brodie wasn’t very good in the playoffs last year, and it’s hard to know what to expect from him at age 33.
To say the least, you’d probably like him on a second pairing, but he remains the Leafs best RH option.
McCabe is a hard hitting, physical player who is also a puck-mover. Unfortunately, out of the six players expected to start the season on the Toronto Maple Leafs blue-line, he is the only physical player (and he isn’t exactly Radko Gudas or Luke Schenn).
All of the Leafs six defenseman are puck-movers. I have long advocated for such a set-up, but ideally you’d have at least two guys like McCabe and one of them should be elite.
Rielly and Klingberg are clearly the kinds of players people think of when you say “puck-moving defenseman” but Giordano, Brodie, McCabe and Liljegren are all hybrd-types who play smart games and can offer excellent defense to go along with their offense.