Marner and Matthews heading to splitsville?
Photo credit:John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
By Jon Steitzer1 year ago
It is a frequent topic in Leafsland at any point Toronto is down a goal, but a debate that seems to disappear as soon as the Leafs retake the lead. We’ve seen it briefly toyed with in game and Sheldon Keefe has removed Michael Bunting from the trio already, so we figured it’s time to ask the TLN crew: Is it time to split up Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner?
It certainly can’t hurt to try out a few different looks. Sometimes players can become too comfortable and shifting things around can certainly be one way of kick-starting a good run. Putting Marner with Tavares and pairing Nylander and Matthews together would be the way I’d go with it, helping to reinvigorate the top six without doing anything too drastic.
If it wasn’t for the recent improvement of play I would say to throw everything in the blender but at this point I think it’s best to be patient. That being said, I think it would be a smart play to swap up the lines throughout the season to see what you could pull off in the playoffs. With how hot Tavares and Marner have been it wouldn’t be the worst decision to try and get them to dominate on the ice together.
Nope, I don’t see any reason to at this point in time. In fact, I think that combo has been getting better and better by the game, they’re starting to really cook offensively. Furthermore, it’s a long season; there will be ups, and as we’re all well aware, there will be downs. Unless the Leafs go off the deep end again, I would stay the course. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?
I would have said yes to this just a few days ago, but as the pairing has started to heat up in the last few games, I’d say it’s better to stay the course for now. However, it wouldn’t hurt the team if Sheldon Keefe decided to mix up the top of the lineup a little bit more than he has been. If that top line has down stretches and the team is struggling later in the season, swapping Marner and Nylander’s places could be a way to generate a spark when the team needs one.
I don’t think so. We are 14 games into the season, and thus far Marner has 16 points, and Matthews has 14. That’s with their ‘slow start’. Recently they have started to generate some chemistry, and since the Leafs are coming off an impressive few games here, changing things right now doesn’t make sense. Despite both averaging at least a point per game, 34 and 16 have not played up to their full potential thus far (which is exciting). At some point this season they may struggle, and swapping Nylander with Marner could be the solution. For now, keeping them together is the most sensible thing.
While for the sake of entertainment/interest I would like to see different mixtures of players in the top six, right now is objectively not the time to split up Matthews and Marner. Both players have recently started hitting their stride and producing at levels closer to what we expect from them. Additionally, the Tavares-Nylander connection has been strong all year, and it would be a shame to have to split them up while mixing up the top six. If the lines do falter, however, I would be very interested to see an extended look at reverting to Matthews-Nylander and Tavares-Marner combos from years ago.
Per natural stat trick, Matthews and Marner over the last 3 years have better metrics together than apart, in every metric. The most staggering one though is the Goals For % (GF%). Together, they get 63.5% of the on-ice goals. When they’re apart, they both get less than 50% of the on-ice goals. Admittedly, GF% is a glorified +/- but 1600 minutes together and 590 minutes they’ve spent apart, it’s worth a little. The stats with Nylander in the same time frame are not statistically significant, by my estimation. Regardless, I think you keep the two together and continue to try to find a linemate that works best.
The past few games have certainly led to this debate cooling and the idea of keeping Mitch and Auston together makes sense, especially since rocking the boat while trying to get by with third string goaltending likely means playing your best lineup.
That being said, I wouldn’t wait for them to go cold before trying something new either. Any line juggling that will probably inform whether they can play apart would probably be best served when they are playing at their best, not needing a jump start.
Its an 82 game season and the coach should be comfortable getting weird with it, but right now isn’t the ideal time.
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