The “Tough Guy” Experiment

Mike Babcock has seemed to finally crack the code of the Leafs lineup. To start the year both Matt Martin and Leo Komarov were key parts of the Maple Leafs rotation. Komarov was playing a 2nd-3rd line hitting role with Nazem Kadri and Patrick Marleau, while Martin played a 4th line role with whoever happened to be in the lineup on the given night. In the beginning it was Babcock’s bread and butter, but as the season progressed people began to realize that Leo and Matt were getting way too many opportunities for the low level of talent that they truly are. The league has developed so much over the last couple of years and the speed and talent have increased substantially, that there is really no room for guys like them anymore. Don’t get me wrong, at one point in time I liked the way these two guys played, but nowadays I lean more towards the new style of play. Coach Babcock finally realized that changes needed to be made and since then, the Leafs have been buzzing.

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Let’s see what has happened since these changes have been made. Matt Martin has been a healthy scratch since January 22nd and Leo Komarov has only played 1 game with over 16 minutes time on ice (TOI) since that time. These adjustments have helped fuel one of Toronto’s best streaks of the season. Since the 22nd, they are 11-2-0, outscoring their opponents 50 to 29 (+21 GD) in that time period. Everyone has been a contributor to their recent success. Marner has been absolutely unstoppable since he was paired up on the Marleau and Kadri line. He’s racked up 8 goals and 6 assists in the 13-game stretch. If you ask me, Freddy Andersen has played like a Top 3 goaltender in the LEAGUE holding a 7-2-0 record with a 2.35 GAA and a .934 SV%. Travis Dermott has proven to be ready for this level as a great call-up move by the organization. And Auston Matthews, well…he’s Auston Matthews (13GP, 6G, 7A).

marner matthews blog

Whether you are a fan of Martin and Komarov or not, you really can’t complain with how this team has been playing as of late. The reality of the situation to me is that there will be an attempt to move Martin before the February 26th Trade Deadline and with Leo’s contract expiring next year he will move into the free agency market in the summer. The right moves are being made at the right team and this team is making not only a run for the playoffs, but a run at the top spot in the East. Think about the fact that it has only taken them 2 years to come into form the way they have now. I am not necessarily saying they are ready to win the Stanley Cup but they are a lot closer than most people would of expected them to be at this point in time. Whatever Babs, Big Lou and Shanny got cooking up in the Head Offices I support it, because damn this team is fun to watch.

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