When it comes to providing offence from the back end for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Morgan Rielly had been leading the charge for the blue and white for almost the past decade. This of course included his breakout 20-goal, 72-point stellar season back in 2018-19.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have also tried having some offensive-type defenseman on their roster in the past to complement Rielly in the attack, but those didn’t pan out as well overall in the end. The ones from recent memory that come to mind include Jake Gardiner, Tyson Barrie and John Klingberg.
As a result, a similar trend has continued this season, with Rielly once again leading the pack from the back end with seven goals and 38 points in 46 games played prior to Saturday’s game. The next best Leafs’ defenseman on the team scoring list has less than half the points of what Rielly has.
However, slowly but surely, there has been one Maple Leafs player from the back end that is starting to show signs of offensive potential in recent weeks and it’s definitely not from someone one would expect it from.
A Surprising Toronto Maple Leafs Defenseman Suddenly Budding With Offensive Potential
That surprising player is none other than defensively-steady Jake McCabe.
Known throughout his 11-year NHL career mainly as a solid, stay-at-home defenseman, McCabe has never scored more than 4 goals, 18 assists or 22 points in a single season.
However, this season, he has already matched his career-high of 4 goals and has recorded also 13 assists and 17 points already through 40 games, putting him second on the team for points from a defenseman. If stretched out over a full schedule, McCabe is already on pace to shatter his previous highs in goals, assists, and points by a huge margin. (All stats from hockey-reference.com)
In particular, he has really raised his game to become an offensive machine in recent weeks, as since the beginning of December, McCabe has potted 4 goals and 11 assists over 25 games.
Remember the fact that McCabe hardly gets any power play time as well. But even more impressively, he has been able to do so without compromising his defensive game too much.
He appears to be gaining more and more confidence in his offensive abilities with each passing game, so much that he would even attempt to do something like this that he for sure wouldn’t normally do to seal the victory for the Leafs.
To take advantage of his untapped potential, perhaps the Leafs can start trying him more on the second power play unit, as well as in some offensive zone starts.
Nevertheless, by having another weapon from the back end, it will certainly give the opposing team more fits in the future in terms of who they need to cover in addition to the Leafs star players. And for McCabe, this could be the beginning of something special for the 30-year-old veteran.