Maple Leafs Need to be Patient With Their Young Guns

Since the Toronto Maple Leafs entered their official rebuilding phase, one consistent message has been put forward by the members of the front office and the coaching staff. They have preached patience for the team and for its younger skilled players. That means the Leafs need to send down their young studs, including most notably, William Nylander. That may not be the popular opinion of the fans, but at this point in time, it is definitely the smart choice for the player and the team.

Is William Nylander NHL Ready?

The young and skilled Swede has survived the current rounds of Leafs training camp cuts. The former first round pick in 2014 appears to be much more at home in his second Maple Leafs training camp. He’s bigger, stronger and has had numerous chances to flash his dynamic skating and passing.

Despite all of that, he’s still a long shot to make the opening night roster. I’m in full agreement with Nylander being sent back down to the Toronto Marlies no matter how well he performs in exhibition games. As a member of the AHL team, he will get top line minutes, something that is not guaranteed to him with the Leafs.

He will also get the chance to grow with his Marlies teammates, some of which may be Leafs in the next few years. There is honestly no rush to insert him into the line-up at this point in time.

There is the very real potential that the Maple Leafs are going to have a bad year. That should come as no surprise to anyone who follows this team. It doesn’t make sense that an organization with such a bright future in these prospects would submit them to a gruelling year of losing and criticism.

Follow the Mitch Marner Example

Mitch Marner
Mitch Marner in OHL action. (OHL Images)

Marner is the organizations top prospect after getting drafted fourth overall this past draft. The 18-year-old showed up to Leafs training camp in September, and despite showing some flashes of what was to come, he was cut. Marner only played in two preseason games and didn’t register a point in either.

He was sent back down to the OHL’s London Knights, where he put up an incredible 44 goals and 126 points last year. Sending Marner down was the smartest move the Leafs could have made. He will be given another year of OHL hockey where he can put the lessons the Leafs taught him into effect. Being a dynamic scoring presence  and leader will also do wonders for his confidence.

The current Knights co-captain will also receive the chance to represent Canada at the World Junior Championship. Assuming he makes the roster, he will be counted on as one of the leaders on the squad and will be tasked with defending the gold medal that is currently in Canada’s possession.

I realize there are numerous differences between these two players. Marner is a mere 18-years-old, and was just drafted by the Leafs. It takes a very special player of that age to make and thrive in the NHL. Nylander on the other hand, is a year older and has professional hockey experience in Sweden and in the AHL.

Despite the differences, both players are in the same boat. They need to get bigger, stronger and learn to display more consistency in their individual games. They are the future of the franchise and there is no need to rush either of them into a situation that they are not ready for.

It all goes back to the original message about patience. This is what the true start to a rebuild looks like. As hard as it is, it means letting your young guns develop without interference, no matter how much fans want to see them with the big club. It may be painful now, but in the coming years when all the pieces are together, these past moves will be looked upon and hopefully called a success.