The Toronto Maple Leafs are in the midst of an underwhelming stretch of play, and while this is mostly due to their extremely thin blue-line, the top line is also struggling.
On the surface, Mitch Marner is doing what he always does for the Toronto Maple Leafs – putting up points. The shifty winger sits at 5 goals and 15 assists for 20 points in 19 games thus far (nhl.com), which looks like strong production.
However, when we dig a little deeper, or simply just watch a Leafs game, it is easy to tell that Mitch Marner is not performing to the standard that Leafs Nation, nor himself, are accustomed to seeing.
With Marner on the ice, the Toronto Maple Leafs are getting less than 50% of the puck-possession, shots, scoring chances, expected goals, and, worst of all, goals. Marner’s on-ice stats have never been this bad in his entire career. (stats current prior to last night’s game, and from naturalstattrick.com).
The Leafs need more.
The Toronto Maple Leafs: Mitch Marner Is Struggling
Marner currently sits Tied for 3rd on the team in Points, alongside John Tavares, followed by a huge drop-off amongst forwards, as the next highest are Calle Jarnkrok and Max Domi who have each tallied 11 points through 19 games this season.
Despite the point-per-game totals from Marner, he has been fighting it lately. In 5 of the last 7 games, Mitch Marner has not recorded a single point. Last season, he was only held off the scoresheet entirely in 14 of his 82 games played. It has already happened 7 times through 19 games this season.
To add to that, 8 of Marner’s 20 points thus far came in a 48-hour window early in November, when he recorded back-to-back 4 point games against the division rival Buffalo Sabres and Tampa Bay Lightning.
Subtracting those totals for the purpose of storytelling is probably unfair, but we’re still going to do it quickly. Without those 2 offensive-outbursts, where he looked great, Marner would be sitting at 12 points through 17 games, and the city would be up in arms.
Power-play point are down as well, but again, it’s not so much the point totals that matter as the fact that the Leafs are not winning his 5v5 minutes when they usually dominate them.
In my opinion, Marner hasn’t had the same juice and confidence that we’ve seen in years past. He’s looked rather lackadaisical at times, but has also looked like he’s trying to do too much at times.
A huge part of this is obviously the Leafs weak blue-line. Marner has spent about half his time with Morgan Rielly and their stats when on the ice together are fine, but his stats crater when he’s not on the ice without Rielly.
With Rielly also on the ice (about half his minutes) Marner has a 57% Expected Goals Rating, this falls to 42% when Rielly leaves the ice. Since Rielly is miles better than anyone else on the Leafs blue-line, this definitely hints that the First Line’s problems are related to the lack of puck-moving ability on the second and third pairings.
It is also possible that Marner is overcompensating. When things aren’t going well, he puts the burden on his shoulders and tries to do too much. He’s one of the most creative players in the league, and not many players have the vision and hockey IQ that he does, but, when times are tough, he tends to get in his own way a little bit.
In order for Mitch Marner to get back into the swing of things, I think he needs to score a greasy one. But maybe the Leafs just need to upgrade their blue-line.
Either way, iff the Leafs want to climb their way up in a crowded Atlantic Division, they need more from Mitch Marner.