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Maple Leafs Might Ask Matthews to Fly Solo Next Season

Might the Toronto Maple Leafs be considering line combinations that will see all the top players removed from Auston Matthews’ line?

There’s been debate in Toronto for years now as the Maple Leafs try to find the best combination of forwards and in how best to deploy the “core four”. Multiple combinations of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares and William Nylander have been tried and tested, sometimes to the point where combination finds magic. Other times, not as much. That said, rarely, if ever, is one of the four stars asked to go it alone.

Related: Whose Fault Will It Be if Mitch Marner Leaves the Maple Leafs?

Jonas Siegel of The Athletic believes this might be the season the Maple Leafs do so. Instead of going with Marner and Matthews or Matthews and Nylander… Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe might choose to run Matthews all by his lonesome. The belief is that he’s productive with just about everyone, so why not elevate other players?

If accurate, that means Marner and Nylander won’t play with Matthews much and other forwards, ones that would typically be further down the depth chart, will get a huge opportunity.

NHL rumors Jason Spezza, Torey Krug, Alex Pietrangelo
NHL rumors Jason Spezza, Torey Krug, Alex Pietrangelo

Siegel writes:

I wonder though if the Leafs should experiment with a more balanced approach, the main crux of which would be removing Marner and Nylander from Matthews’ side.

I tend to think Matthews could score with just about anyone on his wings, and that he could elevate two lesser talents in the same way Sidney Crosby has players such as Conor Sheary, Chris Kunitz, and Patric Hornqvist.

So What Will The Leafs Lines Be?

If the idea is to let Matthews fly solo and see if there are depth guys that can hang and produce with him, it means Marner will go back to playing with John Tavares while William Nylander will get to play with newly acquired center Joe Thornton. From there, the Maple Leafs might try fitting Jimmy Vesey on the left side with Matthews and Zach Hyman on the right. 

image via The Athletic’s Jonas Siegel

Considering Hyman is a pretty good player, this isn’t the worst idea in the world and if it works, the Leafs could have three dangerous lines.

Siegel has, of course, thrown out a few other line combination options which the Leafs are sure to try. None of those have Matthews alone. But, that the team has as much faith in Matthews ability as Siegel thinks they might, it means the Leafs believe Matthews isn’t just ready to take another step, but he’s ready to bring players with him.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Kevin McGregor

    November 19, 2020 at 6:44 pm

    One problem with your proposed lineup combinations is that Hyman is a left winger, not a right winger. Also, there is a chance that Nic Robertson makes the team playing RW.
    There will be lots of competition for the bottom 6 forward positions and 4-6 on defense. It should be interesting.
    I like the idea of trying a line of Hyman-Mathews- Kerfoot or Mikheyev or even possibly Robertson on a line (both Kerfoot and Mikheyev have played LW and RW).

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