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Following the Edmundson addition don’t be surprised if the Maple Leafs shift focus on forwards

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Photo credit:Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports
Jon Steitzer
1 month ago
With Toronto bringing in Joel Edmundson and Ilya Lyubushkin, Brad Treliving has added options for the Maple Leafs on the point and certainly gone with a defence that is prioritizing making life in front of the Leafs net more of a challenge rather than focusing on moving the puck up ice. Combine the two new additions with what Toronto already has in Simon Benoit and Jake McCabe, and the Maple Leafs have a very different feel to the team than the beginning of the year which seemed focused on Rielly, Brodie, Liljegren, Timmins, and (sigh) Klingberg moving the puck around.
So now potentially the Leafs are looking at the following:
Leafs Depth Chart
LDRD
RiellyLiljegren
McCabeLyubushkin
BrodieTimmins
Edmundson
Benoit
Giordano
Lagesson
McCabe, Brodie, Edmundson, and even Lagesson and Benoit could wind up on the right side if needed, so this is potentially the group unless Treliving is going to shuffle the deck in regards to either Brodie or Lilejgren in the next day and a half.
In Brodie’s case, it seems like he’s now on potentially on the outside of the lineup regardless.
This blueline isn’t ideal, it’s certainly on the slower side, but in many ways it mirrors the Columbus and Montreal defences that have given the Leafs playoff troubles in the past. That seems to be what Toronto is going for here.
Given that the Leafs probably don’t want to reinvent too much on their blueline and can work with what they have (with a definite need to reassess this summer), perhaps it’s time to shift focus to what the Leafs can do with their forwards.

The need for a centre or the need to better support their centres

Having Max Domi and John Tavares in the middle presents challenges for the Leafs and when we are talking about the Leafs defensive struggles the blueline becomes a lot less of an issue if you do something about Max Domi’s inability to read a play in the defensive zone. This isn’t a dumping on Max Domi party, his playmaking and feistiness have made him a valuable add to the Leafs, it’s just he can’t be the F1 in the defensive zone for the Leafs.
The story on Tavares isn’t far off that of Domi. He’s absolutely the one of the two the Leafs should still trust in the middle going forward, at least for this year, but he’s another player that Toronto should be trying shelter and deploy primarily in offensive positions and arguably depending on the playoff opponent, you could make a case for the Leafs either wanting Domi or Tavares as the 2C depending on if the line would benefit more from puck movement or a high danger outlet.
Given that Vancouver seems to be providing the league with a second chance at Elias Lindholm and he is certainly a player that Brad Treliving knows, the universe seems to be aligning for the Leafs. Or maybe it is just teasing Toronto.
There are other options like Kevin Hayes that could also make some sense for the Leafs too, but Lindholm is the centre that certainly stands out at this point. I’ll mention Jack Roslovic, Mikael Granlund and Scott Laughton as well for the sake of looking thorough.
The Leafs could also accept that centres are pricey and hard to come by, just like RHD are and in that situation going with a skilled winger like Tyler Toffoli (again a favourite of Brad Treliving) could be an option that provides the Leafs top nine with an overloaded presence that says “defence be damned.” Sometimes as a team you need to steer into your strengths rather than fix your weaknesses and the Leafs approaching four lines of absolute hell for their opposition might be the right course of action.

The universal truth

Given that Brad Treliving has been cautious about cap hits and the Leafs have just as much monetary flexibility as they did before the Leafs two acquisitions, it seems like something big still needs to come. The NHL seems to be in an arms race and so far the Leafs have been bringing in wooden swords.

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