The Leafs Struggles Can't Be Blamed on Just One Player

Toronto Maple Leafs Forward Mitch Marner (#16)
Toronto Maple Leafs Forward Mitch Marner (#16) / Claus Andersen/GettyImages

If it's sounding like a broken record to discuss whether or not Mitch Marner is to blame for the Leafs playoff struggles, against the Boston Bruins, it's because this isn't even the first article from this site this week to comment on the unwarranted critiques of #16.

The truth is that for the Toronto Maple Leafs, there's much blame to go around.

As it stands, it seems the most pointed criticism has been directed at Mitch Marner.

It's true that Marner has been a mixed bag against Boston so far. He was poor in Game 2, and he only has two points in the series, but he redeemed himself with a productive game 4, and he is winning his 5v5 minutes while posting a 59% Expected Goals Rating. (Stats

This article was written before last night's game, but whatever happened, one thing is clear: There is far more blame to go around and it shouldn't all be focused on Mitch Marner.

The Leafs Struggles Can't Be Blamed on Just One Player

Here's the facts: While some of the criticism directed Marner's way is warranted, he's become the next in a long line of Toronto Maple Leafs' fans convenient scapegoats.

William Nylander spent years as the fanbase's biggest target. The seemingly real reason Marner is the targeted pariah comes down to his own history. People see him as expressive on the ice, complaining about plays, not getting calls or being tempered when he fails on a chance.

Fans who believe in the "old ways" of players being silent assassins won't take kindly to the more sensitive and open Marner. He represents what older fans don't like about the evolution of the modern NHL, that players are seen as professional crybabies rather than players.

Historically, Marner has been a consistent positive for the Leafs in the playoffs. He led the team in playoff points with a productive 14 points in 11 games as Toronto finally found its way into the second round of the playoffs.

Marner is no doubt open about his thoughts, but he's not a whiner, or a bad sport. He's an emotional person, and a highly paid one.

It's easy to point to him as apart of the bigger issue of culture at hand, but it let's one person take the responsibility for an entire system that goes much deeper.

You can't blame just one player to understand what went wrong. Some players like Marner and Nylander are bashed for being viewed as inefficient, while smaller players in recent Leafs history, such as Justin Holl and Jake Gardiner, were criticized for lapses in play. But remember there's an entire team behind them, and systemic flaws need to be considered rather than individualistic critiques.

I've already made it clear here that Mitch Marner isn't blameless for the way this series has gone, but more than enough concerns can go around.

Perhaps we should also look at who isn't playing. We've seen Joseph Woll only once so far in Toronto's first 4 games against Boston. There is the fact that Ryan Reaves caused the first goal against in two of the three losses so far. Matthews' mysterious illness. Nylander's migraines. The wasted cap space on Samsonov, Brodie, Kampf, and Klingberg, Etc.

Then there is the coach. I said you can't pin a loss on a single person, but the easiest person management can use to make change is Keefe. I've been a believer in Keefe's ability to win, in the regular season. The problem is that, with so many postseason failures, how bold do you go in forcing results?

The Leafs window is slowly closing, it's nearing the final dawn and no one can just sit around hoping next year is the year or that some draft pick can come in and become a producer. Either the Leafs won last night and have to claw their way back in this series or we just witnessed one of the most disappointing conclusions to one of the highest potential teams ever assembled in the cap era.


Either way, there's a ton of blame to go around, don't just blame Marner.