Why Mitch Marner is the Maple Leafs’ runaway MVP this season
With dwelling ice locked up and the opponent set for his or her first-round playoff sequence, the Toronto Maple Leafs are primarily involved with staying wholesome, getting beneath the cap over the remaining two video games of the season and doing superior scouting on the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Because the common season winds down, it is a good time handy out a number of awards for the Leafs’ 2022-23 marketing campaign — beginning with Mitch Marner and his profession 12 months.
(All stats present previous to video games performed on April 11. Stats by way of Pure Stat Trick and NHL.com)
Mitch Marner is the Maple Leafs’ most useful participant
Marner has outmoded the reigning league MVP in Auston Matthews because the Maple Leafs’ finest participant this season, and that is no slight in opposition to Matthews, who can be handing over a superb physique of labor. However Marner has taken his sport to a different stage in 2022-23 and impacted all sides of the sport. The dynamic winger, who needs to be a Selke finalist — I would give him a top-three vote — has bolstered his repute as one of many NHL’s premier playmakers and penalty killers amid a profession 12 months with Toronto.
Marner is one level shy of turning into simply the fourth participant in franchise historical past to achieve the century mark with 30 targets and 69 assists on the 12 months, and he is simply missed one sport because of load administration, a call he wasn’t happy with. He is been the mannequin of consistency and his playmaking is the first purpose why he is elevated to a brand new tier this season.
Marner ranks second in major assists at 5-on-5 and he leads the NHL with 76 takeaways, whereas Toronto controls 55.7 p.c of the anticipated targets at 5-on-5 when he is on the ice.
He is been a two-way menace. And whereas the very fact he ranks 108th in anticipated targets in opposition to/60 amongst all certified gamers (600 minutes at 5-on-5 or extra) signifies he might not be fairly the human eraser he is made out to be, Marner objectively makes life extraordinarily tough for opponents — typically stifling possibilities in a single finish and turning them up the opposite manner in a rush, generally in a single fell swoop.
Marble also became just the third NHL skater — together with Connor McDavid and Matthew Tkachuk — to report 30 or extra targets and 60-plus assists in every of the final two seasons, per Sportsnet Stats.
All through the season, Marner has been requested to drive Toronto’s offense and has nearly at all times delivered, whether or not the staff was experimenting with an 11-forward format, or reverting again to a standard 12-forward look. Marner is the frequent denominator when the Maple Leafs experiment with their traces, realizing that his defensive tenacity and excellent passing will translate with nearly any linemate.
Marner has additionally been the engine of one of many NHL’s finest energy performs, and whereas Tavares leads the Maple Leafs in PP factors, it is Marner’s capability to control house and thread passes by way of tough angles that make the unit tick at a 25.9 p.c clip, tied for the second-best mark within the league with, you guessed it, Tampa Bay!
Marner broke a franchise report by notching some extent in 23 consecutive video games from Oct. 27 to Dec. 15, registering 11 targets and 34 factors over that span. Mid-way by way of the season, we declared Marner because the runner-up staff MVP and never a lot has modified since then.
Marner will seemingly be paired with Auston Matthews and Michael Bunting (or will Calle Jarnkrok determine again onto the road? May rookie Matthew Knies be an actual choice?) for the playoffs, however he is sturdy, versatile and he is been excellent for the Maple Leafs in each facet of the sport.
So as to add a proverbial cherry on high of the scrumptious sundae that is been Marner’s season, he is additionally scored two of the perfect targets of the marketing campaign. Marner scored a jaw-dropping additional time winner in opposition to the New York Rangers on January 25, getting round Ok’Andre Miller’s large attain whereas chopping to the online to ship Scotiabank Enviornment right into a frenzy.
If there’s one play that encapsulates Marner’s sport, it might be this objective in opposition to the Edmonton Oilers on March 11. Marner picks off Ryan McLeod and along with his again to the online, spins and kicks round Stuart Skinner, earlier than tucking the puck into the online calmly. It was surreal to witness in-person and it’ll maybe be one of many first highlights on his profession reel when it is all mentioned and accomplished.
Honorable mentions: William Nylander and Auston Matthews.
Jake McCabe has been essentially the most impactful deadline acquisition
If Ryan O’Reilly have been wholesome for almost all of his tenure with the Maple Leafs, he’d seemingly earn this superlative. O’Reilly affords the Maple Leafs higher lineup flexibility, he is nonetheless able to being a two-way menace even when his defensive sport was starting to tail off with the Blues this 12 months, and he offers a calmness that comes along with his championship pedigree.
He might find yourself as essentially the most impactful acquisition if the Maple Leafs win all of it — or at the very least defeat the Lightning.
McCabe, nonetheless, has been a rock for this Maple Leafs protection corps, a gifted group that has been vulnerable to bouts of inconsistency — TJ Brodie apart, after all. The Athletic’s Kevin Papetti took a deeper dive into McCabe’s influence since becoming a member of the Maple Leafs on March 1 they usually outright dominated possession, together with the share of precise targets. McCabe has been primarily partnered with Brodie, though he is additionally performed video games alongside Justin Holl and Timothy Liljegren.
McCabe-Brodie have logged 167:55 collectively at 5-on-5, the equal of almost three full video games. The partnership controls a 56 p.c share of the anticipated targets at 5-on-5, whereas being on the ice for seven targets for versus 4 in opposition to. McCabe-Brodie can be utilized as a legit shutdown unit, which might permit Morgan Rielly and Luke Schenn to function because the staff’s second pairing — shielding Rielly from the harder defensive matchups whereas permitting him to function as an above-average offensive contributor.
There was a quick scare Monday night time when McCabe left the sport after blocking a shot, however he solely required stitches. He throws himself in entrance of pucks, he can exit the defensive zone simply, and he is been precisely what the Maple Leafs wanted on the blue line.
Honorable mentions: Noel Acciari and Ryan O’Reilly.
There is a operating joke between media members that Giordano is the designated speaker at morning skates. Giordano has been nice to the media, he is keen to speak about something, he is been an advocate of the staff’s Delight initiatives and on the ice, he is been a mentor to Holl, Liljegren and the since-traded Rasmus Sandin, all of whom performed their finest hockey when hooked up to him.
Giordano was a rock for the Maple Leafs throughout the first half of the 12 months and whereas his play has tailed off throughout the second half, the Maple Leafs are going to want the whole lot the 39-year-old has left to be able to obtain their final objective . Giordano’s been a gentle presence for all the room and his management, alongside along with his secondary offense, might be relied upon massive time this spring.
Honorable mentions: Alexander Kerfoot, Morgan Rielly, Wayne Simmonds.
Ilya Samsonov is Toronto’s Most Improved Participant
Many puzzled what the hell Kyle Dubas was doing when the Maple Leafs elected to run Ilya Samsonov and Matt Murray because the staff’s goaltending duo. Murray began robust, earlier than accidents and bouts of inconsistency took him out of the operating. Samsonov, who was afforded each likelihood to win the Capitals’ job final season, urgently wants a change of surroundings.
The wager was on Samsonov’s first-round pedigree, and it paid dividends. Samsonov gained 27 of his 40 begins to associate with a 2.33 targets in opposition to common and .919 save share. He additionally ranks tenth in targets saved above anticipated by way of MoneyPuck. Though there have been issues about how the goaltending would maintain up, Samsonov exceeded expectations and gave the Maple Leafs an actual likelihood to go deep this 12 months.
Honorable point out: Calle Jarnkrok.