The Maple Leafs have a wealth of options for their power play in 2023-24

Photo credit:Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Alex Hobson
11 months ago
The middle of July is a great time to do all your favourite summer activities, including going to the beach, finding a patio to have a pint, and if you’re a little on the deranged side, think about the Toronto Maple Leafs’ power play deployment.
In all seriousness, things have gone pretty quiet on the free agency front in the past few weeks, and Maple Leafs’ general manager Brad Treliving hasn’t done anything of note himself since the signing of forward Dylan Gambrell two weeks ago. So, that’s how we end up here, in the middle of July, talking about things like power play deployment.
So now that I’ve mentioned power play deployment twice without any context, perhaps it’s time I let you in on what I’m talking about. As of right now, we have no idea who the Maple Leafs’ next power play coach is, and thus, we don’t really have much of an idea of how the power play itself will look next season. We got a pretty good idea of what to expect from Spencer Carbery’s power play units in 2021-22 and 2022-23, but he’s since moved onto bigger things, signing a deal to be the Washington Capitals’ new head coach in 2023-24.
While the deployment of the power play will certainly be a team effort between head coach Sheldon Keefe and whoever the new power play coach is, there will be a new voice on the bench one way or another, so I figured I would take a look at some options for the power play this upcoming season.

Option 1 – Load em’ up

We’ve seen the Maple Leafs adopt this strategy for the past few years now, and it’s seemingly worked. I mean, they had the second-best power play percentage in 2022-23 and led the league in the category in 2021-22, so you could definitely do worse than that.
That being said, however, I think the loaded top power play unit was more of a reflection of the Maple Leafs’ lack of offensive forward depth rather than a specific strategy. When your best secondary scoring options are players to the effect of Pierre Engvall, Ilya Mikheyev, and Calle Jarnkrok, it makes more sense to have your core players all on the same unit and out on the ice for the majority of the power play.
This season, however, they’re going to have Tyler Bertuzzi and Max Domi as secondary scoring options, and you can more than likely include Matthew Knies in that group too, provided he doesn’t trip and fall out of the gates next year. With those three players, in addition to the core four, all of a sudden that second unit is much better, and probably worth more than the 20 to 30 seconds it would have gotten in 2022-23.
Still, though, let’s take a look at what the Maple Leafs’ power play could look like this season, if they decided to stick to the same strategy as last year.
Nylander – Tavares – Matthews
Klingberg – Marner 
Bertuzzi – Domi – Knies
Jarnkrok – Rielly
One thing I didn’t mention before; Klingberg and Rielly can be interchangeable as your top unit, but I’d probably have the former as your PP1 defenceman. Rielly produced more on the power play last season, but Klingberg has a far better shot from the point, which is something that Rielly has struggled with in the past, and has relatively the same mobility on the blue line.
That second power play unit is excellent compared to the ones the Maple Leafs have had in previous years, but if they deploy their power play units the same way, I feel like they’d be wasting the players on the second unit. Granted, riding their top unit for 75% of the man advantage helped them finish first and second place for two seasons in a row, so maybe it’s best not to fix something that isn’t broken.

Option 2 – Split ‘em up

If I’m Keefe, this is the strategy I’d use for the power play units to kick off the season. But, unfortunately, I’m not Keefe, so the best I can do is write about it in an article. While the Maple Leafs’ strategy clearly worked for them last year and the year before, they were also very inconsistent at times. I find that when the power play isn’t clicking, it’s painful to watch. There’s a lot of aimless skating around, lots of passing, and not a lot of shooting.
This isn’t the reason I think they should split up the power play units, but it’s one of the factors. Mostly, I think it would be beneficial to force teams to adapt, knowing they’d be seeing different combinations of players and not just the unit of Matthews-Marner-Tavares-Nylander-Rielly for a minute and a half every time.
With the aforementioned Bertuzzi, Domi, and Knies to work with, the Maple Leafs have some far more dynamic secondary scoring options, and ones that I believe could work with any combination of players from last year’s top unit. I think you could do a lot of experimenting, but here’s what I’d do to start.
Knies – Domi – Matthews
Marner – Klingberg
Bertuzzi – Tavares – Nylander
Jarnkrok – Rielly 
Like I said, you could do a lot of messing around with these ten players. You could go Matthews and Nylander on the top unit with Bertuzzi and Jarnkrok, Tavares and Marner on the second unit with Domi and Knies. Hell, you could even take three of the core four and put them with one of those secondary options, then stick someone like Tavares or Nylander on the second unit with the rest of them.
Between the opposition having to adapt to new combinations and keeping the players’ legs fresh, I think it’s a no-brainer to adopt this strategy in 2023-24. That said, even if they stick to what happened last year, there’s a good chance the power play remains just as good as it was last year. That’s the beauty of having a wealth of options.

Option 3 – REALLY load ‘em up

I highly doubt this is going to happen, and if it did, I probably wouldn’t support it unless they DESPERATELY needed a goal. But, I like maximum chaos, and we actually did see the Maple Leafs do this a few times last season, so we’re going to give the 5-forward option the time of day even though it likely won’t happen much.
For context, this is what the Maple Leafs’ power play units would look like if they decided to load that top unit all the way up.
Nylander – Tavares – Bertuzzi
Matthews – Marner 
Jarnkrok – Domi – Knies 
Klingberg – Rielly 
The funniest part about this is that of those players, Jarnkrok is probably their weakest link. Considering he scored 20 goals last season and sniffed 40 points, that’s a great problem to have.
Like I said though, I don’t see this happening. If it does, it’s likely in the final minute of the game, meaning that second unit wouldn’t even see the ice. Still though, I thought it would be funny to include it anyways.
In the end, the Maple Leafs have a ton of options regarding their power play units this year. If I’m Keefe, I’m seriously considering that second option and splitting them up. The power play is their biggest strength, and it should only improve in 2023-24 with the new secondary scoring options.

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