WWYDW: Assigning a role to Young Matt

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I wrote a deep dive about the Leafs’ July efforts and while most people got the core point, there were a few debates over specific nuances. Eventually, that derailed into an argument about Matt Martin.

Of course, Martin hasn’t played a single game with the Leafs yet. Heck, we don’t even know where he slots in the lineup. A few people had some curious ideas, with people pegging him on just about every forward line possible.

So here’s my question to you: What line do you place him on? Do you attempt to put him in a scoring role in hopes that he can somehow become the next Leo Komarov? Do you have him continue his role as a shutdown forechecker? Do you put him with whoever other teams are targeting on the fly and say “eliminate them before they eliminate your teammate”?

I’ve got him pegged in the middle-most role, serving as a good soldier on a more offensively-tuned bottom six line. I think pure grinder lines like the one he was on in Brooklyn are going out of style, but the role of a disruptor, especially if they can keep up with the play once they attempt to recover the puck is useful if executed well. But I want some of your thoughts. Leave them in the comments below!

  • Harte of a Lion

    I put him on the 4th line where hes most comfortable (we dont want another clarkson)
    i also think you need to keep him away from the kids because you want them with guys who will make them better rather than dead weight (in the offensive zone where martin isnt the strongest)
    if you can create a 4th line that is tough to play against, has the potential to score occasionally, and can have a + penalty difference is ideal. this makes me think of a line like Martin-Laich-Greening/Lupul/sosh (depending on if greening gets a middle 6 role or not and if lupul can even play)

    in short, komarov didnt start on the 1st line, he earned it on the 4th.

  • Cam Rennie

    3rd line winger beside Matthews separating opposition from the puck. This gives Matthews and his right winger(Marner?) a chance to recover the puck in the offensive or neutral zone.

  • Gary Empey

    James Van Riemsdyk looks set on the first/second line.

    Leo Komarov looks set on the first/second line

    That leaves two spots on the left open for:

    Milan Michalek

    Joshua Leivo

    Joffrey Lupul

    Colin Greening

    Matt Martin

    It is way too early to tell but for fun, I will go with:

    Martin – Matthews – Nylander

  • Jeremy Ian

    I think Babcock will teyhim on the line with Matthews and Nylander. If he is able to contribute offensively by recovering pucks, taking opposing players out of play, staying in front of the net and executing tap-ins, deflections and potting dirty rebounds he’ll get to stay on that line. If not, he’ll probably end up on the 4th line of rejects – a line that will inevitably look like a ‘traditional’ 4th line with Michalek and Laich or whatever – even though Babcock doesn’t believe in having that kind of line. Until the trade deadline at least or injuries happen and he gets younger and more skilled linemates.

  • Cam Rennie

    In any case, I’m pretty sure he won’t be dropping his gloves and hitting as frequently as he has been in the past. His home will be in front of the net.

    • Jeremy Ian

      Umm, what do you think the front of the net is like. Rainbows and Ice cream?

      Im pretty sure they paid him 2.5m a year to play his game so he will be hitting. Also If you think he wont be getting hit and hitting (in fornt of the net) you have never played hockey.

      • I’m just saying that, from what I’ve seen, Babcock is instructing his guys to avoid ‘going for the hit’ and looking for fights. Of course Martin will get into fights and get an occasional hit but I think he will be primarily in charge of digging out pucks, protecting pucks on the boards and standing in front of the net. Physical game but no extra-curriculars, not the traditional Colton Orr-type role whereby the guy comes onto the ice and chases down opponents to stale them to the boards or start a fight to ‘get his team going’. That’s not Babcock’s game.

  • Tommy Cat

    Matt Martin wasn’t signed by the Leafs to score goals. Way way way too much emphasis is placed on points by fans and media. Whatever points Martin puts up is gravy. Hockey is a fast physical sport that inflames emotions. Teams need some grit and muscle. Leafs were getting pushed around last year and Babcock said it would get addressed in the off season. It affects a teams confidence even if you don’t have a fancy stat to measure it. The Martin signing was the primary response to that.

    Martin will probably flip between the 3rd and 4th lines. He’ll crash and bang on the 4th and do his best to get his team mates legs going. Drive up his teams desire and want. But if there is any liberties being taken with Matthews and/or Nylander on that third line Martin with skate with them.

  • Trevor5555

    What I love about this upcoming season is that Babcock has so many options, and potential combinations this year you can write out 50 different line combos and have valid reasons for each.
    But at the same time you don’t want to be mixing line mates around all year as you want players to have time to gel together through consistency.
    Which is why i pause with the idea of Martin being on the same line as Matthews, and Nylander. Because they will start with 3rd line minutes/responsibilites, potentially earning more playing time as the year goes on making them the defacto 2nd line bumping Bozak and JVR down in 5v5 time. Which is why I think Martin is more suited for Bozak and JVR as Martin is a solid player suited for the “Komorov” role in the going hard to the corners digging out the puck for Bozak, freeing JVR to get in front of the net, but that would require Bozak to shoot more unless Zaitsev picks up that slack for him.
    Training camp and preseason games will also help see who plays well together and which kids will earn a spot. as i bet the vets Lupul, Michalek, Laich, Greening, will stay up before Shoshnikov, Hyman, Liepsic, do. but only because I’m sure Lupul, and Michalek will be injured 10 games in.
    But also factor in someones probably getting traded before the season starts.
    So many variables gahhh!

  • silentbob

    I think your first option is has misleading wording – I haven’t seen anyone suggest he be moved into an offensive role (to me, that means being put in a position where offensive output is expected/required).

    I think there are two likely roles that Babcock has in mind.

    First we have to acknowledge how Babcock structures his lines. Lines 1-3 have two skilled players and a “grinder”, while line 4 reverse’s that mix (if not all checkers). This why players like Komarov, Spaling, Winnik, Abdelkader, Legwand etc… play on lines with much more skilled players.

    1) Martin will be the anchor or “star” of the 4th line. They’ll have some young players like Hyman, Lepsic, Gauthier etc… play with Martin and learn from his example.

    2) They’ll play him on the 2nd or 3rd line (I think the top line will be Komarov – Kadri – Nylandaer) with Matthews or Bozak and provide that line with some sand paper, be the guy who goes into the corner to dig out pucks for the more talented players etc… If he does play this role I think its reasonable to expect an increase in his offensive production, but I certainly wouldn’t say he is in an offensive role.

    • Gary Empey

      Re – “Babcock structures his lines. Lines 1-3 have two skilled players and a “grinder”

      To be even more precise Babcock’s preferred structure if has has the players, is:

      Good play-maker – Good goal scorer – defensive specialist

      He also expects everyone to backcheck.

      Matthews is interesting as he can play all three of those roles. I think it’s fair to say Nylander is good at two of them and still working on his defensive game.

  • silentbob

    He’s a 4th liner. Stick him on the 4th line and keep him there for the duration of his four year contract.

    He can’t score, so he should be kept away from the kids (unless that kid is Gauthier). The kids should be spread across lines 1-3 anyways (again, except Gauthier).

  • silentbob

    Babcock likes to have a grinder to get the skilled players the puck and create some room. Babcock has also stated that his team was pushed around too much last year. Martin a good checker and tough hitter will play on a scoring line and keep the “flies off” his linemates. Just being a 4th line checker can be handed to any number of guys, but a grinder/hitter and one who can go toe to toe with anyone who would take advantage the young guns is a necessity.

  • Stan Smith

    I’m with the Matthews/Nylander crowd. We know Nylander won’t be going into the corners to get the puck, and Martin would be the prefect guy to show Matthews how it is done.

    If they do want to limit Marner’s ice time, and play him on the 4th line, Martin could see duty there, but as I mentioned in your original post I can’t see them paying Martin over $2M a year to play 4th line.

  • Gary Empey

    What sets Martin apart from a typical 4th line winger is that he is a really good skater. He is considered an elite body checker and always finishes his hits. Has some offensive ability, too. He did score 35 goals in his last year in junior, averaging a point per game. This gives Babcock different options on how to deploy him.

    Expect to see “heads up” hockey when him or Komarov are on the ice.

    It is hard to make that perfect pass when you hear a search and destroy mission moving in with speed.

    PS

    One of the things I have noticed over the years is a few players with reasonably good two-way skills end up stuck playing a primary defensive role. The thinking seemed to be he is so good defensively we will play him there to balance the lines. I think this is why Carlyle put Komarov in that role. Matt Stajan comes to mind as well. This all seems to be changing with some coaches now spreading their top talent over three lines.