Leafs: With an offence like this, who needs defence?

TORONTO, ON - DECEMBER 3: Patrick Marleau
TORONTO, ON - DECEMBER 3: Patrick Marleau /

The Leafs made a splash in free agency over the weekend, signing future Hall of Famer Patrick Marleau to a three-year contract. While some suggest their focus should have been on improving the defence, they have gone all in on offence and that’s fine by me.

For years and years the general rule for the Leafs and the rest of the NHL has been that defence wins Championships. While there may be some legitimacy to this, the Pittsburgh Penguins just won a Stanley Cup by sporting a workmanlike group of defenders, while their elite forward group did most of the heavy lifting.

There’s no denying the NHL is changing, and with the ever-increasing need for speed and skill, the murky and plodding defence-first style of the 2000 New Jersey Devils simply will not work today. Don’t get me wrong, I’d take Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer and Martin Brodeur any day of the week, but those guys don’t grow on trees. Equally as rare are top-six forwards, and the Leafs have suddenly stockpiled an abundance of those.

With the addition of Patrick Marleau, the Leafs now have six 20-goal scorers in their lineup. In addition, Mitch Marner and Tyler Bozak just missed that mark by scoring 19 and 18 goals respectively last year. Of course they made up for it by amassing a plethora of helpers, which led to a season of 61 points for Marner and 55 for Bozak.

With this insanely deep offensive group, fans and reporters alike have started to speculate that someone has to go in order to upgrade the back end. I ask this question: why?

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James van Reimsdyk seems to be the hot topic of trade rumours, but personally, I wouldn’t move him for a middle of the road defenceman. If you do make that deal, can the incoming defender more than make up for the 29 goals and 62 points that just walked out the door? More often than not the answer to that question will be a resounding no.

I propose a different plan of attack. With the addition of Ron Hainsey, a proven winner and steadying force on the blue line, the Leafs should hold fast with the group they have and wait for the likes of Travis Dermott and Timothy Liljegren to take their place with the main roster.

By doing this they’ll be able to keep their forward group in tact, and their three lines of offensive threats will hopefully be able to suffocate most opponents.

It’s not like the Leafs’ defence was so inept to begin with. With Morgan Rielly, Nikita Zaitsev, Jake Gardiner and now Hainsey, the Leafs have a sturdy top-four. And let’s not forget Frederik Andersen seemed to solidify himself as a legitimate top-10 goalie in the league last year, so with his steadying hand in the crease, the Leafs’ back end will be serviceable.

Here’s the other option; they might be able to sign another defender in free agency. Perhaps a returning Cody Franson is a good fit?

That mightn’t be the worst idea, but tearing apart their elite forward group to supplement the back end just isn’t right, right now. Even worse would be trading picks at this point, but I really don’t think Lou Lamoriello and company are considering that.

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Much has been made of the fact the Leafs have a three-year window to go all-in and compete for a Stanley Cup, before Marner, Auston Matthews and William Nylander are due for big raises. I think this is a crucial time for our beloved Buds, because this type of opportunity doesn’t come around often.

Signing Marleau was basically a risk-less venture for the Leafs, since his money will be coming off the books as the young guys get their big contracts. By signing him now, they’ve supplemented this young, improving offence and given themselves a chance to outscore most teams on any given night.

The NHL needs goals and goals are hard to come by for most teams, but this Leafs team should have no issue filling the net with their forward group as is currently formatted. I wouldn’t change that, not right now.

Go play fast-paced, offence-first hockey. Overwhelm teams with your offence and scare the life out of opposing blue lines. If you have the puck all the time, who cares who’s playing defence anyways?

By all means, upgrade the defence if you can do so without hurting this current group of forwards. But trading the likes of van Riemsdyk just for the sake of it isn’t very appealing to me right now. After all, 30-goal scorers are a premium.

Next: Leafs' outlook still intact after recent signings

The 2017-2018 Toronto Maple Leafs are going to be exiting, they’re going to score goals, and with each 6-3 win they’re going to make the NHL great again.