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Leafs Head Coach Confirms Thornton Gets Shocking Role to Start Season

Well, for insiders and Toronto Maple Leafs fans who figured newly-acquired veteran forward Joe Thornton would get a chance to prove he could still play third line center on this 2020-21 Maple Leafs team, Jumbo Joe is going to get a chance to do a lot more than that. Head coach Sheldon Keefe confirmed on Sunday that Thornton will start the season playing left wing with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner.

Related: Some Big Roster Battles Brewing at Maple Leafs Training Camp

The second the news was revealed, there were all sorts of questions coming out of Leafs Nation. Some wondered if Thornton could keep up with these two and if that was too much responsibility for the aging forward to handle. Others wondered why the Leafs were demoting a player who might be better suited for the spot. Many wondered if the news combination of lines Keefe revealed in the same availability was the right way for Toronto to go.

As Chris Johnston of Sportsnet points, out, “Thornton’s most common linemates at 5-on-5 last season were Marcus Sorensen and Kevin Labanc.” To say the least, Matthews and Marner is an upgrade and Thornton will get the chance to show his free agency deal might be the steal of the offseason.

Marner commented on the news and noted that in playing with Thornton, he wants to “find holes and be more of a shooter and a threat,” as per James Mirtle. Matthews said, “He looks good. We spent quite a bit of time together the last couple of weeks skating. He looks good, he’s been skating, he looks sharp; he looks like Jumbo out there.”

Remaining Maple Leafs Line Combinations

If these line combinations stick, that means Jimmy Vesey, John Tavares and William Nylander might make up the Leafs second line, Ilya Mikheyev, Zach Hyman and Alex Kerfoot will be on the Leafs third line and Alexander Barabanov, Wayne Simmonds and Jason Spezza may round out the forwards group.

That means, Nick Robertson, Travis Boyd, Pierre Engvall, and Joey Anderson are on the outside looking in and will either be extra forwards or on the taxi squad.

Next: Canadiens Had Interest in Chara, Habs GM Confirms Future Trade Challenges

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