Marner's Injury Allows the Toronto Maple Leafs to Assess Forward Lines

The day-to-day injury of the Leafs star right-winger has forced head coach Sheldon Keefe to alter his lineup. The feedback could prove invaluable in finding the best forward lines.

Boston Bruins v Toronto Maple Leafs
Boston Bruins v Toronto Maple Leafs / Claus Andersen/GettyImages
facebooktwitterreddit

An injury to Mitch Marner is something the Toronto Maple Leafs would rather not have to deal with.

Head coach Sheldon Keefe stated so during his after practice availability on Wednesday when it was revealed that Marner is "unlikely" to play in the Leafs next game on Thursday against the Philadelphia Flyers, which of course, he never did.

Marner missing a second consecutive game with what appears to be a lower right leg injury suffered last week against the Boston Bruins has forced Keefe to shuffle his forward lines.

The preference would be to have all players available and find the optimum lineup combinations leading up to the playoffs. While that won't be possible just yet, the injury to Marner does allow Keefe to gather valuable information about some of his other forwards.

Marner's Injury Allows the Toronto Maple Leafs to Assess Forward Lines

From an individual standpoint, missing games will likely prevent Marner from reaching the 100-point plateau once again. In the bigger team picture, the injury could prove beneficial.

Marner logs the most ice time of any Leafs forward. Resting him until he is fully healed is the correct thing to do. The Leafs have nothing to gain from a premature return to game action.

Marner would prefer to play, but a late-season refresh could prove advantageous in the long run. The different line combinations can help the Leafs sort through what works best.

With Marner out, John Tavares will move back to the second-line center. Max Domi had recently held that role for multiple games, but will now move back to the left wing with Tavares.

Other notable changes will see Tyler Bertuzzi remain on the left side with Auston Matthews, with William Nylander rounding out the unit in the place of Marner. Calle Jarnkrok will play the right side with Tavares and Domi.

Questions Remain on All the Leafs Forward Units

That means Matthew Knies will play left wing on the third line with David Kampf at center and Bobby McMann at right wing.

The rejigged lines will help the Leafs answer the questions that remain on all four units.

Who works best on the first-line left wing with Matthews and Marner? Is Tavares or Domi the best option at center for the second line? Does Domi work better at wing with Kampf, limited offensively but more reliable defensively, centering the third line?

The next five games on the Leafs schedule will see them play the Flyers again, the Carolina Hurricanes twice, plus the Edmonton Oilers, all currently in position to make the playoffs. The other game is against the Washington Capitals, also very much alive for a spot in the playoffs.

manual

The injury to Marner is unfortunate for the Toronto Maple Leafs, but it allows them to self-scout and find their best forward combinations for what lies ahead.