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Using Split-Second Decision to Question Marner’s Courage Is Silly

The Toronto Maple Leafs Mitch Marner missed a chance to come up with a puck. Why is critiquing his lack of courage a bigger mistake?

Mitch Marner, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ hockey player, possesses several notable strengths. Specifically, he has exceptional skill, a high hockey IQ, and strong defensive capabilities. Despite being smaller, he leverages his intelligence and vision to excel on the ice, often positioning himself strategically to influence plays. When possible, he tries to avoid harm’s way and situations where he’s liable to get smacked around. You can kn

I, for one, can’t blame him for that. His avoidance of physical engagement could be interpreted in two ways. First, it could be a calculated decision to protect himself and play to his strengths. Second, it could be a reluctance to confront the game’s physical challenges. Which has it been during this first-round series? None of us knows.

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There Has Been Recent Scrutiny About a Specific Marner Play

The recent scrutiny surrounding Marner stems from a specific play. During Game 2 against the Boston Bruins, Marner appeared to avoid engaging with a larger opponent, defenseman Charlie McAvoy of the Bruins, to contest for the puck. Although Marner is a good player, I’m not typically an advocate. I think his agent, Darren Ferris, played dirty when negotiating his last contract, which was problematic. I also think I’d not re-sign him to another contract so quickly if he does so again.

Mitch Marner, Maple Leafs forward

Yet, in the case described above and seen below, knowing what’s going through Marner’s head is impossible when he avoids this specific contact. It’s possible that Marner’s decision-making process was compromised or unclear in the heat of the moment, leading to a missed opportunity. It could be that he had another plan that didn’t work out.

Whether this incident reflects a genuine fear of contact or simply a tactical choice is uncertain, and we may never fully understand Marner’s mindset at that moment.

So, Is the Criticism of Marner Justified?

The criticism directed at Marner, whether justified or unjustified, remains subjective. It’s challenging to make definitive judgments without knowing his true motivations or mindset. Ultimately, Marner’s performance and contributions to the team should be evaluated based on a broader context of his overall skillset, hockey IQ, and impact on the game. Even if Marner chose to avoid that particular contact and, to use an old phrase, “live to fight another day,” can we blame him?

Marner has come under scrutiny for what has been called a disappointing performance, resulting from his seeming avoidance of physical engagement during a critical play. The incident has now sparked a broader conversation about his effort and effectiveness, particularly in the playoff context, where every play is magnified. Social media and sports commentators use this to analyze Marner’s actions, or lack thereof, and question his ability to perform under pressure.

Here’s the play that has come under scrutiny.

As you can see, Marner saw the hit coming and left the puck alone to try to move around McAvoy. That’s accurate. Yes, he avoided the hit. However, he might have thought he could get ahead of the play and turn it around back on the Bruins’ netminder if he let McAvoy play the puck and headed him off at the pass – intercepting the puck as it came out the other side. Had he been able, he could have spun around alone on the Linus Ullmark.

Even if he made a mistake, that’s the extent of it. He made a mistake.

One hockey writer has jumped on this play to suggest that Marner bailed on it and, by doing so, allowed the Bruins defender to scoop it up and go down the ice. The writer noted that this type of play is typical of Marner this time of year and that it’s a reason the Maple Leafs have struggled during the postseason. Hmmm. That’s a pretty big accusation based on a split-second play. No other specific plays were pointed to as examples of Marner’s weak choices.

The Bottom Line for Critiquing a Player on a Single Play

Decisions about a player’s lack of courage are more complex than simply analyzing a split-second on-ice decision. The truth is that I don’t know what Mitch Marner was thinking. Hockey is a fast-paced sport where players must make instant decisions under intense pressure. I’m not wise enough, nor was the person who posted the video and the tweet. Neither of us is in any position to make such a definitive judgment.

Mitch Marner injury update Maple Leafs

It’s difficult to fully grasp a player’s thought process in those critical moments. Because we cannot, we shouldn’t rush to make authoritative judgments about a player’s courage or intentions based on isolated incidents. Each play on the ice involves numerous factors, including strategy, risk assessment, and split-second reactions. In hindsight, what may appear as a questionable decision might have resulted from various considerations in the heat of the game.

It’s important to view players like Marner within the broader context of their overall team contributions and strategic mindset. While individual plays can be scrutinized, avoiding oversimplifying complex situations or attributing undue significance to specific moments is wrong-minded.

Ultimately, hockey is about intelligent decision-making and teamwork, and players like Marner often navigate these challenges, focusing on maximizing their team’s chances of success.

Related: Don’t Forget Martin Jones’ Part in the Maple Leafs Success

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