Locked on Leafs: Blue Line Breakdown

After an up-and-down start to the 2023/2024 NHL season, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ defence finds itself injured, depleted, and in need of reinforcements. Currently, Timothy Liljegren, Mark Giordano and John Klingberg are all injured and will likely miss significant play-time. The Leafs’ blue line was already an area of concern prior to these injuries, but taking these players away only exacerbates this issue. 

It is clear that General Manager Brad Treliving has some work to do and needs to make a trade to boost his blue line. Some players he will likely target include Christopher Tanev, Brett Pesce, Travis Sanheim, and Andrew Peeke. These players would all benefit the Leafs with their individual defensive play and physicality. It will be interesting to see how Treliving goes about addressing his defence without taking away from his forward group. 

The Leafs faced similar defensive depth issues last year, addressing it by acquiring Luke Schenn and Jake McCabe, who fit into the team seamlessly and were important players for the Leafs. While Schenn left the Leafs in free agency, McCabe remains a Leaf and has been a consistent presence on the blue line despite facing some injury-related trouble himself this season. 

Meanwhile, the Leafs’ offence has been inconsistent. The second line consisting of William Nylander, Tyler Bertuzzi and captain John Tavares have been the Leafs’ best, providing offence and earning wins. However, Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner have been suffering with inconsistent play. This issue grew larger, forcing Head Coach Sheldon Keefe to shuffle the lines and pair Matthews with Nylander and Tavares with Marner. 

This subtle change seems to be working for the Leafs. In a recent game against the Seattle Kraken, Mitch Marner scored both a hat trick and the shootout winner, appeasing his critics for the time being and bringing home victory for Leafs nation. This game by Marner leaves Leaf fans hopeful that he and Matthews will be more consistent, play better offence, and lead the team to play better hockey for the rest of the season. 

The Leafs look to beat their archrivals the Boston Bruins in their next game. This match is set to be an exciting one, as games between these two teams are always electric. However, the Leafs will likely bring more intensity to this game after their embarrassing lack of response when defenceman Timothy Liljegren was injured on a dirty play by Brad Marchand earlier this month. If this bad blood carries over to this game, Leafs fans will be ready for an exciting, physical, and intense game against perhaps one of the league’s best teams.

This game will set the tone for the next month of the season for the Leafs. They are entering December in a playoff spot, but not as high in the standings as they would like to be. If the Leafs want to secure home ice advantage against whoever they play in the playoffs, they will need to be better in the regular season, to rack up the points and climb the standings. Fans hope to see the team win more games and prepare for this year’s playoffs. 

Sports & Health Editor (Volume 50); Locked on Leafs Columnist (Volume 48 & 49) — Omar is in his final year at UTM, working towards completing a major in CCIT and double minors in Political Science and Anthropology. Omar loves to keep up with various sports teams, his favourite being the Toronto Maple Leafs. When he isn’t stressing over exams or the Leafs, you can find him watching movies, looking at shoes he can only hope to afford, and trying his best to avoid parking tickets on campus.

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