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Maple Leafs blueline going with a Burns era design

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Jon Steitzer
13 days ago
Like many younger Gen Xers or older Millennials, I grew up on the Burns/Fletcher era Leafs and most of my happiest Leafs memories are linked to that wonderful time in the Norris division when the Leafs were as close to a Stanley Cup contender as anytime I’ve experienced in my life. And we had the Blue Jays. It was a good time.
Anyways one of the things the Leafs didn’t have during that time was a particularly deep defence and that seems to mirror the situation we see now. Dave Ellett and Todd Gill weren’t exactly no name defenders but were by no means the Coffey, Bourque, Chelios, early Lidstrom calibre defenders of that era either. Rounding out Ellett and Gill with Jaime Macoun, Drake Berehowsky, Bob McGill and Dmitri Mironov left a lot to be desired, but somehow the team managed and that was largely on the strength of their shutdown duo of Sylvain Lefebvre and Bob Rouse.
The Leafs over those past two seasons seemed to rely heavily on the following pairings:
Ellett-Mironov
Gill-Macoun
Lefebvre-Rouse
The Leafs struggled to find right shots then as well.
There isn’t anything flashy about that but there are some similarities that come up when looking at the then and now of it, right down to TJ Brodie being the older former Flame defender adjusting to a declining role.
Mironov, a puck mover that everyone wanted to get more out of mirrors Timothy Liljegren.
Gill the hardnosed veteran asked to do too much defencemen seems a lot like Jake McCabe.
Ellett and Rielly are the offence first guys, but while Ellett’s point shot was better than Rielly’s, you’d be crazy to not prefer every other aspect of Rielly’s game.
And that brings us to Edmundson, Lyubushkin, and Benoit who are unquestionably the Lefebvre and Rouse clones. As someone who forms a lot of opinions based on the on-ice page of Natural Stat Trick, I admit that my affinity for the Lefebvre and Rouse pairing has mean wanting to believe that this Leafs defence might be capable of doing something more than the sum of their parts and while the offensive play of the team will be what stirs the pot, the Leafs defence might be able to play the right way at the right time in order to put together a run.
For what it’s worth, a Burns blueline probably looks like:
Rielly-Liljegren
McCabe-Brodie
Benoit-Edmundson
I don’t expect Sheldon Keefe to fully mirror what worked for the Leafs 30 years ago (the idea of TJ Brodie being anything but a third pairing option at this point would induce a city-wide panic) but the game is far closer to early 90s pre-dead puck era hockey than ever before and maybe trying to repeat history isn’t a bad idea.

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