Toronto Maple Leafs: What to make of moving Patrick Marleau to center

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 9: Richard Panik
TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 9: Richard Panik /

With the Toronto Maple Leafs struggling, Mike Babcock decided to make significant changes to the lineup including Patrick Marleau playing down the middle.

It was no surprise to see changes to the Toronto Maple Leafs lineup at practice on Tuesday following their loss to the San Jose Sharks. Mike Babcock took the blender to the defensive pairings as Connor Carrick was back in practicing with Jake Gardiner while Andreas Borgman was alongside Nikita Zaitsev.

The Leafs head coach did not stop there though as the forward lines were given a new look and some of the changes came as a bit of a surprise. The fourth line got a new center as Tyler Bozak was put in Dominic Moore‘s spot with Patrick Marleau moving to center.

Josh Leivo definitely deserves his chance to get back into the lineup but it is the player coming out that many did not see coming. Moore had his struggles against the Sharks playing only seven minutes. With Moore, the fourth line did not register any scoring chances while giving up 16. It was a part of the reason why San Jose had so many scoring chances.

More from Tip of the Tower

It is well known that the Leafs depth at center does not go deep which is why the Leafs are willing to go with Marleau down the middle. Some will argue that maybe William Nylander should be given a chance but that top line has been so dominant that it should remain intact. The next logical choice in this case was Marleau given his experience playing down the middle.

Throughout his career, Marleau has averaged 275 draws in the faceoff circle winning on average 50 per cent of those draws. However, that is not the only reason why he is the logical candidate. His defensive presence and skating would help drive a line unlike Bozak who has been struggling. This probably will not be a permanent situation as Marleau has proven to be a more effective winger but given the team’s situation it does not hurt to try and shake things up.

The Leafs have been struggling to get the puck out of the defensive zone and sustain pressure in the offensive zone. Marleau has been praised for his strong forecheck and it gives him a chance to play in a more significant role especially on the defensive side. It also helps that Nazem Kadri has Leo Komarov and Leivo on his wing so losing Marleau should not have as much of an impact.

Now there is the chance that Babcock does not make the switch but the morning skate should give a better indication. However, considering the changes were seen during the game against San Jose, Babcock will likely keep it that way for the next game at least.

Next: Observations from 3-2 Loss to San Jose

What do you think of the recent line changes? Do you think Marleau will be able to play effectively as a center? Let us know in the comments.