Maple Leafs Need To Improve Defense

Let’s start this with some good news. On Saturday, the Toronto Marlies beat the Manitoba Moose 4-2. That brings them to a record of 3-1. Now for the bad news. Also on Saturday, the Toronto Maple Leafs had a 4-2 lead over the Chicago Blackhawks in the third period and once again gave it up. They gave two goals in the last three minutes of regulation and would go on to lose 5-4 in a shootout.

Looking at the five games the Leafs have played, you can see that the Leafs have no problem scoring goals. They have managed to score four goals in all but one game. Seriously, the Leafs have scored 16 goals in five games. Most teams who do that would win more than they lose. Of course, this is the Leafs we’re talking about so nothing really goes as it should.

Martin Marincin, Maple Leafs
Martin Marincin (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Clearly, the offense is not the issue. What needs to be fixed is the defense. Sure, the goaltending could be better but the Leafs aren’t getting rid of Frederik Andersen anytime soon. The Leafs can do things about the defense. Martin Marincin seems to be the biggest culprit, sitting at a minus-three and has been the cause of two goals against. He was hurt for the game against Minnesota, but was named a healthy scratch for the game against Chicago. Considering he was playing on the top pairing alongside Morgan Rielly, that’s quite a quick fall. Another amazing fact is that he led the Leafs in ice time against Winnipeg, which should never happen again.

How To Fix The Problem

Let’s first look in-house. The Leafs have already replaced Marincin’s spot in the lineup with Roman Polak. While he did manage to score a goal in the Minnesota game, he isn’t a long-term solution to the problem. The Leafs then have Frankie Corrado just waiting for a chance to get back into the lineup. The Leafs should at least give him a chance. While the Leafs want to have their veterans guide their youngsters, they’re causing more problems than they’re solving.

Another problem is that they really don’t have the defense on the Marlies to call up. Rinat Valiev is possibly the only d-man on the Marlies that the Leafs would consider calling up. Viktor Loov is also possible, but he has fallen down the depth chart considerably. The Leafs best defensive prospects are Travis Dermott and Andrew Nielsen, who are both currently with the Marlies. However, they are both playing in their first professional years and probably won’t see any time in the NHL until the end of the season at the earliest.

Jacob Trouba, Winnipeg Jets, Fantasy Hockey
(Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports)

Now we come to trades. We know that both Jacob Trouba and Cam Fowler seem to be on the market. Trouba wants a chance to play more than he does in Winnipeg and is currently holding out, while Fowler might be pushed out of Anaheim due to a cap crunch. Both would look good in a Leafs uniform, but they would each carry a steep price. Trouba would cost even more since the Leafs would then have to sign him to a new contract.

The thing is, the Leafs have assets to move. While it might weaken the Marlies, the Leafs could deal some of their forward prospects to upgrade the defense. The Leafs have enough of them that they could send one or two in a deal. The thing the Leafs don’t want to do is move their first-round pick. Other than that, the Leafs need to at least listen to what other teams want. Trouba might present a problem since the Jets want a young defenseman to replace him, but the Leafs need to listen.

Whatever it takes, the Leafs need to improve their defense. Their offense has come a long way in a short time. The defense needs to come along with it if the Leafs are going to improve themselves.