Photo Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Mitch Marner has started the season better than you think

Mitch Marner was on the tip of every Leafs and NHL fan around the continent throughout the summer. Leading the media circus for all of the Restricted Free Agents that needed new contracts, the Leafs winger seemed to be the only topic to talk about.

A majority of the conversation was about off-ice issues and how his new contract is going to look when it comes to the Leafs’ future cap structure. But now that the season is officially four games old for Toronto, the hometown boy hasn’t exactly shocked the hockey world so far.

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It’s extremely early, but just by watching the games, Marner has been less noticeable than other forwards that are slotted into more depth roles.

By just looking around at some tweets and general takes, it appears that most have been slightly disappointed by what the winger has done so far in this young season. With his contract hovering over his head like an old EA NHL nameplate, every little thing that Marner has done in these four games has been treated with the context of his salary.

Understandably, it’s hard to separate the player and the contract, but as the Leafs fan collective, there is a possibility of being more critical than warranted. His production has simply been incredible through this season.

GP 5v5 TOI Goals (5v5) Assists (5v5) ixG (5v5) on-ice 5v5 CF% on-ice 5v5 xGF%
4 54:54 2 (0) 3 (1) 1.40 (0.73) 60.23 51.15

It’s still weird and wacky season because of the small sample size, but given that Marner has played under an hour of even-strength hockey, he has still been able to come across as a player that will contribute.

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The raw numbers aren’t quite there — the lone assist at even-strength — but the magic he has been able to perform on the power play and his ability to control the game with the shot attempts and expected goals on-ice percentages, there might be a sudden jolt in his boxscore stats at 5v5.

It’s odd to see a player that’s over a point-per-game as a disappointment, but it’s been happening so far.

There hasn’t been the supreme flash that everyone has grown to know Marner for, but as seen by the numbers, he’s still the same old power play specialist that can contribute well at even-strength.

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Even if the numbers at evens have not been quite there yet, the underlying metrics that should suggest general performance is above-average.

It’s still such a small sample size for every Leafs fan to pay attention to, but it is simply what happens after a star player signs a larger-than-life contract and has yet to be that all-star player that gets given that percentage of the cap.

Nothing to really grab a hold of and point to with force as to why Marner is deserving of his contract within these four games. But as mentioned previously, there are still 78 more regular season games to be played and he’s on-pace for over 100 points. It seems a little insane to criticize a player that can put up a season that no Leafs player has done in a very long time, but that’s where we are when said player signs for over $10-million a year.

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Patience is needed and we all know by the end of the season, Marner will most likely be in the top-3 in scoring and will have a handful of jaw-dropping plays to go along with the numbers.

Let’s just enjoy the ride and give every forward a turn on the “look how damn good he is” wagon.