The Maple Leafs Need New Additions to Help With This Significant Weakness

Killing penalties has been a season-long issue for the Leafs. Recent trade deadline acquisitions will be given the opportunity to help the team improve in this area.

Buffalo Sabres v Toronto Maple Leafs
Buffalo Sabres v Toronto Maple Leafs / Claus Andersen/GettyImages

Playing while short-handed has been a significant area of weakness all season long for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have ranked in the bottom third of the NHL for most of the year, well under 80% efficiency, generally considered the benchmark for an average unit.

Currently, it sits at 77.5%, 21st in the league. Even worse, it is trending in the wrong direction. During the past ten games, that number dips to 73.9%.

For as much as the Leafs power-play helps them win hockey games, their play while killing penalties hurts them. A temporary absence from the lineup for Mitch Marner, a key to their short-handed units, won't help. Yet, assistance could be on the way.

The Toronto Maple Leafs Need New Additions to Help With This Significant Weakness

As much as the trade dealine acquisitions of general manager Brad Treliving were panned, there is hope they can shore up the Leafs deficient penalty-killing.

The Leafs lack size and ruggedness on their blue line, traits that are required in short-handed situations. Net front puck battles, shotblocking, and retrieving loose pucks are necessary components for a successful penalty-killing unit.

Jake McCabe, Mark Giordano and Simon Benoit bring those elements, but the remaining parts of the Leafs blue line are not known for their physical play or grittiness.

Both newcomers to the Leafs blue line, Ilya Lyubushkin and Joel Edmundson will be given the opportunity to help kill penalties.

If they can eliminate space for opposing forwards in front of the Leafs goaltenders, block shots, and make that area a painful proposition for those that enter, it will be a welcome sight for the Leafs.

The Toronto Maple Leafs Need to Establish Short-handed Forward Pairs

Marner and David Kampf have been a regular forward pair during recent seasons while playing short-handed. They have been a part of past successful Leafs penalty-killing units, so they are certainly capable.

The second pair of forwards has been a revolving door. Auston Matthews and William Nylander have taken occasional turns along with Calle Jarnkrok, Pontus Holmberg and Noah Gregor. The departed Ryan O'Reilly, Noel Acciari and Sam Lafferty have been missed.

The Leafs acquisition of Connor Dewar should help in this spot. He adds depth to an underrated area.

Over the remaining month of the season, the Toronto Maple Leafs need establish a consistent pair of forwards and defensemen to play short-handed.


The Leafs trade deadline acquistions were not flashy, and will not help offensively, but if they can be efficient during even-strenghth play and provide a boost for the team's moribund penalty-killing units, there is value to be had.