The Toronto Maple Leafs are 2-1-0 in their first three games of the 2023-24 regular season.
A big concern the Toronto Maple Leafs is their blue-line. It is their biggest weakness and will need an upgrade.
The Leafs have scored 14 goals, but they’ve also allowed 13 goals against. With those numbers, they’re lucky to have two wins. They are relying on their top guys to produce an unrealistic five goals or more per game.
Leafs general manager Brad Treliving has stated that he’s looking to upgrade the defense. Treliving is known to like physical defensemen, so if he can find one that plays well defensively, the Leafs would benefit greatly. The current group is not good enough and has been a glaring hole since the season started.
Toronto Maple Leafs Defenseman Jake McCabe Playing Poorly
One defenseman who’s surprisingly bad right now is Jake McCabe. The Leafs added McCabe at the NHL trade deadline last season. He played well for the Leafs after the deadline and struggled through most of the playoffs.
However, he has not played well so far this season. At 5v5, the Leafs have scored one goal while he’s been on the ice, while allowing six. His Corsi rating 44.9%, and the Leafs are only getting 43% of the shots and 38% of the scoring chances.
Most concerning, however is the fact that the McCabe/Klingberg pairing has allowed 21 high-danger scoring chances while producing only 9 for a 30% rating. McCabe’s Expected Goals rating is a horrid 38%. (stats naturalstattrick.com).
Head coach Sheldon Keefe has taken notice, and McCabe has seen his ice time get smaller after each game.
In game one, McCabe played 21:27 minutes. In game two, he was down to 19:58 minutes, and then on Monday, he played 18:17 minutes. The Leafs are counting on McCabe to play well defensively and to play a lot of minutes. They can’t afford to have him playing poorly.
During the off-season, the Leafs brought in free-agent defenseman John Klingberg. He does not play well defensively and is most effective on the power play. While playing at even strength, Klingberg is best suited to have a defense partner who plays well defensively. Ideally, McCabe would be that defensive partner, but after three games, head coach Sheldon Keefe will need to figure out different defense pairings because they have been brutal.
In last night’s game, the coach had enough after two periods and swapped out Klingbeg with Liljegren.
It’s still early in the season, so there’s no need to panic, but if McCabe’s play doesn’t improve by the ten-game mark, the Leafs have a big problem. Hopefully, the Leafs coaching staff can help McCabe get back on track. The Leafs need him to play a lot of minutes, but they don’t want those minutes to cost them.
The Toronto Maple Leafs play their next game on Thursday, October 19th, against the Florida Panthers in Florida. It is the first game of a five-game road trip for the Leafs. McCabe’s play needs to improve if the Leafs are to have a shot at a successful road trip.