Toronto Maple Leafs Monday News - Marner Out + Robertson Up + Home Ice Lost

Mar 4, 2024; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mitchell Marner (16) tries to get
Mar 4, 2024; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mitchell Marner (16) tries to get / John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
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The Toronto Maple Leafs are not the Vegas Golden Knights.

Mitch Marner gave them every opportunity to be, but the Toronto Maple Leafs either lack the imagination or the Mackavelian nature of their friends from the desert.

Just hours before Friday's Trade Deadline - in which the Leafs utterly and completely failed - Mitch Marner neglected to shoot the puck into an empty net, skated around the net instead, then fell down and hurt his foot.

The perfectly timed injury could have freed up $11 million in caps-space had the Leafs decided that his ankle, like whatever mystery ailment the Knights are attributing to Mark Stone, was hurt just long enough to get better in time for the playoffs where there is no salary cap.

The Stanley Cup, awarded annually to whichever team has the most most fortunately timed injuries, was within the Leafs grasp in the early hours of Friday morning. Too bad the lacked the guts/fraud skills to get it done!!

Toronto Maple Leafs Monday News - Robertson Up + Home Ice Lost

While the Leafs could have made more out of Marner's injury, all is not lost. The rest of the games don't matter because the Leafs are making the playoffs but are not going to win the division, so they have lots of time to experiment.

Enter Nick Robertson.

The recently demoted-for-no-reason-that-had-anything-to-do-with-his-play Robertson is back with the Leafs in light of Marner's injury.

Robertson is a prime candidate for a breakout role, and a best-case-scenario could present itself in Marner's absense.

Theoretically, Marner being out could give Robertson a chance to shine on the top line with Auston Matthews. Should that happen, when Marner is back, Keefe could do what he should have done years ago and play Marner, Matthews and Nylander on different lines.

I have said this so many times I've lost count, but in the NHL the hardest thing to defend against is when teams have elite players on the third line where they can dominate against inferior competition. When the Pittsburgh Penguins briefly had Jordan Staal behind Malkin and Crosby they were unbeatable. They won again when Nick Bonino and Phil Kessel added elite first line power to another third line.

Any time a team can put an elite player on their third line, they have a significant advantage over anyone they play. The Leafs really need to take this approach when Marner is back.

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The rest of the season - with its expanded rosters - is for Sheldon Keefe to find the right combos for the playoffs. The Toronto Maple Leafs have almost no chance at winning the division after wasting last week's two games against Boston, but that doesn't mean they can give up, as a Stanley Cup, while unlikely, is still possible.