The Maple Leafs have a secondary scoring issue that needs to be addressed

Photo credit:Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Shane Seney
5 months ago
The core four of the Toronto Maple Leafs have been carrying the team since game one this season and it’s eventually going to catch up to them. GM Brad Treliving must do something about it before the March 8 trade deadline as the Leafs aren’t going far in the Stanley Cup Playoffs if it’s just four forwards supplying the offence.
Leafs Morning Take host Nick Alberga sent out this tweet ahead of the Dallas Stars matchup this week and it was mind-blowing to see it laid out like such:
Toronto ended up holding onto a 5-4 victory against Dallas, and to no surprise the goals were scored by Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, and John Tavares. Something’s gotta give.

Treliving Needs to Consider Adding Versatile Forwards

While the blueline is certainly a priority ahead of the trade deadline as it’s an area of the team Treliving has been concerned about since signing his offer letter, the Leafs GM also needs to consider what the trade market has to offer when it comes to versatile forwards who can play down the middle, the wing, and provide secondary scoring.
Expect to see Treliving dipping his toes into much more than just the rental market. He’ll be looking at forwards and defensemen who have term left on their contracts and if he sees something he likes, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Leafs’ 2024 first-round pick was being dangled in talks. Again, not for a rental, but for someone with at least another year on their deal.
Resident hockey insider Frank Seravalli had some interesting targets named on his recent trade board that may tickle Treliving’s fancy. Some of the rentals who could help include the likes of Adam Henrique of the Ducks. While he’s a bit pricey at $5.8 million, the veteran forward has recorded 15 goals and 33 points in 48 games including 14 points in his last 12 games. Henrique is a natural centre who can play the wing and is one of the smartest players in hockey. $5.8 million is pricey and will be hard for Treliving to find room for, but right now he’s paying Bertuzzi $5.5 million and he’s scored one goal in the last two months.
The Senators are going to listen to offers on Vladimir Tarasenko, who has a history of scoring some big goals. He’s performed well in his first season in the Nation’s capital, recording 13 goals and 33 points in 45 games. Tarasenko also has 44 Stanley Cup Playoff goals in 97 career postseason games, which could help out the core four when the games matter most. Not necessarily checking off the versatility category, as Tarasenko cannot play centre, but he has a history of playing both wings which never hurts. Again, we’re in the 5 million dollar range, which won’t be easy for the Leafs to navigate, but there are some tough decisions ahead and Treliving needs to consider if he’s going to approach Bertuzzi about moving his no-movement clause. Talk about selling low if that happens.
Anthony Duclair of the San Jose Sharks is another interesting option that Seravalli names on his board. Duclair has shown he can perform in the playoffs with 11 points in 20 games last spring with the Florida Panthers and even though he only has nine goals on the season in 46 games, with his speed, it could fit in nicely on the Leafs third line. Again, not someone who can fill in down the middle, but has experience playing either wing and in a few different roles.

Keefe Running Out of Options?

Considering the Maple Leafs play game #50 on Saturday night in Ottawa, it’s wild to me that there are so many issues with the line combinations and finding secondary scoring. Sure, there are a couple of key injuries right now that don’t help, as David Kampf and Calle Jarnkrok are missing from the bottom six, but considering all the tinkering Sheldon Keefe loves to do, it’s surprising that there hasn’t yet been a combination that works.
Listen, it’s not a problem to have four players be absolute studs offensively and help break games wide open or claw their way back into contests, the worrisome part is the fact nobody else is helping. What else are they doing to contribute to wins?
Bertuzzi doesn’t kill penalties, so we can cross that off. The same goes for Domi and McMann, meanwhile, Knies and Holmberg are usually PK-4 options who see roughly 20 seconds a game shorthanded. Bertuzzi landed six hits on Wednesday night against the Stars, which was a season-high, at least there’s that.
It doesn’t help when it comes to a lack of power-play time either, as the core four has been playing a ton on the PP, but at some point, the Leafs need some depth offence at 5vs5. Bertuzzi has four even-strength goals and Domi has three, in a combined 97 games and $8.5 million against the books. Likely one of the many reasons why Treliving hasn’t offered any extensions to this point.
The Maple Leafs have a ton of question marks for a team sitting in third place in their division. The defence or lack thereof, has been getting most of the attention this season, meanwhile, the lack of secondary scoring is starting to creep up the charts, and rightfully so. The Leafs aren’t going to win a thing if these forwards can’t figure out what their role is on this team.

Check out these posts...