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Maple Leafs Marner Can Only Find Forgiveness in One Way

As it stands, Mitch Marner is a measure of many Toronto Maple Leafs’ fans ire. Is there a way he can find his way back into fans’ good books?

Right now, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Mitch Marner is the most polarizing player on the team. Some fans – and it seems fewer than before – believe he’s an elite player. Most fans – and the numbers seem to be growing – believe he’s a good player, but not nearly as good as the salary he draws. At best. he’s complementary to others on the team.

Many fans want him gone. Even if the team gets nothing for him in commensurate trade value, just having his salary free to pay other more “deserving” players seems to be enough for them.

But is there any way Marner can be welcomed back to the team and the full measure of adoration that he once held before he signed his most-recent contract? Many fans simply cannot seem to forgive him for his big contract and for the way he negotiated it.

I believe there’s a way for Marner to find his way back into the fans’ good books. And, in this post, I’ll suggest how he might just once again regain the good favor of Maple Leafs’ fans.

Related: Three Takeaways from Maple Leafs 5-4 Loss to the Avalanche

Where Is the Team at This Point in the Season?

To this point in the season, the Toronto Maple Leafs have had a better season than most of their fans might have expected. The reason for suspicion was warranted.

Frederik Andersen, Zach Hyman, and Zach Bogosian had moved on to other teams and the organization – through the work of general manager Kyle Dubas – was trying to replace those key pieces in a way that fitted into the team’s salary-cap budget. He did well to bring in some great pieces – Michael Bunting, Ondrej Kase, and David Kampf jump to mind.

Say what you want, this season’s team is just as good if not better than last season’s team. Any skepticism that was present has since been replaced with more confidence that this team will likely make the playoffs. How they do after that – well, few Maple Leafs’ fans are betting the mortgage. 

Mitch Marner Maple Leafs (Upper Deck Card)

Obviously, given the rotten way last season ended during the playoffs means that a good regular season isn’t enough.After a 3-1 series lead against the Montreal Canadiens when the team lost the last three in a row, there was obvious concern that the team would be far worse than it was last season. That the team’s been just as good is step one in the right direction. But that’s only one step.

Mitch Marner Has, in Comparison to Last Season, Had a Down Season

However, for as improved as the team is, the one player who has not played as well has been Mitch Marner. Last season, Marner had a strong season and finished fourth in points in the entire NHL. This season has been more difficult for him. He isn’t scoring up to either fans’ or his own expectations.

Forgetting his performance during the playoffs – where both he and Auston Matthews simply didn’t get it done – who really would have believed that Marner would have had a sub-par season? Certainly not me.

Who knows why his regular season has suffered? He did suffer a shoulder injury. Now he has COVID-19. Still, even before those setbacks, he was scoring at fewer than the point-a-game pace we’ve become used to.

To date, Marner’s scored six goals and 15 assists in 26 games on the season. Most hockey players would covet that kind of production; however, Marner’s been better than a point-a-game player except for his first two seasons. He now has 379 points in 381 games. Like Marner or not, these days that’s Hockey Hall of Fame production.  

Related: Maple Leafs Line Combinations: Marner & Engvall Out with COVID-19

How Will Marner Play When He Returns to the Team After COVID-19 Protocol?

As it stands right now, should Marner continue to play at the pace he’s been playing at, he’d have the worse season of his entire career – something just under 60 points in about 70 games or so. But, really, no one would care if only he could do one thing.

As noted, as it stands Marner is perhaps the most polarizing player on the Maple Leafs’ lineup. Many Maple Leafs’ fans can’t get over the money he makes given his general level of production. They believe his salary holdout – some Maple Leafs’ fans believe it amounted to posturing, threatening, and holding the team for ransom – was in fact a tacit promise that he would and could deliver once he got “the money.”

Auston Matthews Mitch Marner Maple Leafs
Auston Matthews Mitch Marner Maple Leafs

He has not – at least not in the way fans believed he should, given the money he makes. But, he has one chance at redemption. That chance is the playoffs.

Because most Maple Leafs’ fans are tired of regular-season success followed by postseason failure, what would happen if Marner put together a great postseason and led his time to a few series’ wins?

You can bet that Maple Leafs’ fans would be quite forgiving. Should he become a postseason leader who leads the franchise to a Stanley Cup after 55 years, I can’t see a single Maple Leafs’ fan refusing to come to the parade because they don’t like Marner.

There’s a Way Back Home for Marner

Even if he has a rotten rest of the regular season, those poor numbers won’t matter a lick if his performance in May and June helps the Maple Leafs gain playoff success. This team is capable and could go on the kind of postseason run they haven’t done in years.

Almost every Maple Leafs’ fan will tell you, the measure of this team’s success will depend only on how well it does during the playoffs. If Mitch Marner can lead his team to a Stanley Cup – or anywhere close – nothing else he does this season will matter at all.

His contract will also be “just fine.”

Related: Mitch Marner & Darren Ferris Found the Money, But They Lost the Fans



  1. Chris P. Bacon

    January 10, 2022 at 7:25 am

    Seems to me that people are pissed at the Dubious One, not Marner. Sure Marner held out, which he had every right to do as a negotiating tactic. But it was the Dubious One that blinked and caved into the demands of a player once again. By overpaying Marner by about 3 million, it makes it easier for the fans to target Marner for what’s wrong with the pay structure of this team and watching some very good players walk because there’s no cap space left for them.

  2. Old Prof

    January 10, 2022 at 7:58 am

    You have a point, but that’s not how it’s entirely being played out by the Maple Leafs fans – when I wrote the post, it struck me that the word forgiveness was a bit odd – but that’s exactly what I believe I’m reading about Marner – they think he’s done wrong. Thanks for your contribution – Jim Sr.

  3. Afp1961

    January 10, 2022 at 8:52 am

    Jim a couple of additional thoughts…..

    Fans reaction towards MM comes from more than one vantage.
    1: the hold out from the hometown boy who grew up idolising the leafs certainly did not sit well with fans
    2: his agent and daddy agents approach to publicising certain points during contract talks was perceived as poor judgement by the public and an irritant in talks
    3: white not confirmed, there is strong evidence that daddy agent demanded a “A” on MMs jersey equal to that of Matthews as this comparable has always been their bone of contention. Name me one other team that has this idiotic rotating A system ..?
    4: his contract compared to direct others in his RFA class that were negotiated months before and just after his all show to be 1.5-3m less. These players are as good and in some cases better than MM. We are talking Point, Rantanen Connors Aho.
    5: MMs flippant attitude to the media right after the Habs loss, during the off-season and even in camp this year has been well chronicalled. Certainly not trying to endear himself to a fan base who initially treated him like royalty.
    6: Two successive playoff rounds where he has been MIA. Leaf fans love a warrior type in the playoffs like Dougie and Wendel. MM is the opposite, shuns from the greasy areas, Spins back towards the blue line to avoid contact. When you are paid as the highest RW in the game it should translate into playoff performance yet it is 180 degrees the opposite.
    7: watching other leafs pushed out due to cap constraints always brings up the bad MM contract. People do not look generally at Matthews or Willi or Tavares as they do MM.
    8: PP performs better without MM on it. Teams know how to defend against him easily. He has been figured out but he has not adapted. Great players do that but MM has not.
    9: Tavares Matthews and perhaps even Nylander can carry their own line. MM cannot. He needs a shooter and a digger in order for him to highlight his skills.

    While I agree with you that performing well in the playoffs will help alleviate the scrutiny, I am afraid it may be one tall order. He does not show to be freely playing the game. Overthinking things that once came naturally and it is affecting his line mates as AM has shown to be able to play well with Kase and Kerfoot (small sample size) as well as anyone.

    I suggested months ago an Eichel for MM trade as both needed new environments. Today MM just continues to erode in asset value, unless he can turn it around. In todays Covid economy it will be tough to move him for anything close to what a top ten (supposedly) player should garner. The contract is an anchor around both his and Dubas’ neck.

    Quite a conundrum.

  4. getrdone

    January 10, 2022 at 10:46 am

    It is simple for me, It is not Dubas, he has had some real good signings, some swing and misses, but basically managed the signing of free agents well at the bottom end of the lineup. Marner was a Leaf boy and then then strong armed his way at contract time. His attitude after the bow out to Habs he just blew the press and the fans off. He has not gotten it to show some humility and take ownership of his play on this team. He has some growing to do to be the player he thinks he is and the leader he thinks he is.

  5. Dave Bryce

    January 10, 2022 at 2:01 pm

    Marner is a good player but not a great player! Fans could live with his pathetic 5 goals in 32 career playoff games if he was making 6.9 million not 10.9 and 13.25% of the entire payroll!

  6. Charls davies

    January 11, 2022 at 6:40 am

    My opinion is that if he could just work on becoming at least an average shot then he might be worth something. To me the fact that he is not much of a threat to score is what is costing him when it comes to points. It’s no coincidence that he has zero power play goals. He plain out can’t/wont shot the puck and teams know that for goodness sake even Ritchie has a power play goal… shot Mitch shot

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