As we approach the outset of the 2018-19 NHL season, let’s speculate on the Toronto Maple Leafs’ future line combinations.
For the first time in a very long while, the Toronto Maple Leafs are legitimately one of the best teams in the National Hockey League.
After a disappointing conclusion to an admirable run in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs against the Boston Bruins, the Buds entered the offseason with expectations abound. The rumor mill operated in full swing, rumblings of an administrative shakeup were translated into a reality, the most talked about player in the hockey world was added to the team’s roster and discussions of captaincy overflowed the talk circuit of news.
As we await the Maple Leafs’ October 3 home opener against the Montreal Canadiens, let’s explore a subject of widespread rumination: the question of who, in particular, shall form the basis of the club’s line combinations. After all, this set of players could be very well act as the avenue through which Lord Stanley’s trophy is finally brought back to the city of Toronto.
Forwards: Line One
Patrick Marleau-Auston Matthews-William Nylander
When the Maple Leafs acquired John Tavares — arguably the most sought-after free agent in the history of hockey — on July 1, 2018, head coach Mike Babcock was open about the vision that he had for the team’s top offensive units.
Undoubtedly excited about the prospect of being able to run the equivalent of multiple “first” lines, Babcock expressed a willingness to alter the dynamic that had informed his deployment of Auston Matthews over the course of his first two seasons in the NHL. To the surprise of the club’s fans, this meant two things — first, that Zach Hyman would be (tentatively) removed from the 20-year old’s left wing, and second, that veteran forward Patrick Marleau would (tentatively) take his place at Matthews’ side.
As such, we can expect the Buds’ top line to be composed of the aforementioned Marleau, Matthews and the soon-to-be-extended William Nylander. The shakeup promises to combine offensive prowess with defensive astuteness, with the hope that the addition of the 38-year-old Marleau — who is coming off a season in which he tallied 27 goals and 47 points — provides an even deadlier threat to the already impressive games of Matthews and Nylander, respectively. Fans have longed to stand witness to a moment in which Marleau is slated alongside the 2016 first overall pick, so look for the Maple Leafs’ top three to make the most of the opportunity at hand.