Maple Leafs: Analyzing the Matthews, Marner and Thornton line

Mitch Marner Auston Matthews Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Mitch Marner Auston Matthews Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /

Sheldon Keef is trying new lines for the Maple Leafs in training camp.

It doesn’t take much for Toronto Maple Leafs fans to get excited but with training camp set to open, head coach Sheldon Keef decided to offer up a major shakeup to the team’s line combinations.

Many were taken back when Keefe decided to announce that Joe Thornton will join Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner on the top line. You get the sense that there is excitement at the possibility of Matthews and Marner playing with Thornton because the longtime veteran is regarded as one of the top playmakers over the past decade (possibly longer).

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Sure there is some concern about whether the 41-year-old will be able to keep up with the dynamic forwards. It’s a move that brings a lot of questions considering this would indicate that Thornton is in for a bigger role than most had initially expected.

One thing that Thornton provides Matthews and Marner is a different skillset on top of his playmaking. He’s a player who has a lot of experience in different situations so he will be a dependable option for the trio and could unlock more out of their game.

"“He’s a big frame, so I think it’s nice to know whenever we’re in trouble that we’ve got an outlet, because he hangs around the net,” Matthews explained about the move. “He’s in front of it, behind it, and just having that outlet when he’s so big and strong and can protect the puck so well, it [offers] those little give-and-gos and [you] just trying to get open for him. You know he’s got great vision, even with guys draped all over him. It’s just finding that chemistry throughout camp and building on it every day.”"

Can putting Thornton with Marner put more of a burden on the skilled winger to shoot more than he has. Considering who will be passing him the puck, he might have a choice.

It also means the trickle down to the rest of the roster will take some getting used to considering John Tavares and William Nylander will be getting a new linemate in Jimmy Vesey who joined the team as a free agent. On top of that, Zach Hyman is going to be moved out of the top six playing on the third line with Alexander Kerfoot and Ilya Mikheyev.

Considering the Leafs have not seen success with the path they have been on, making changes should be embraced because it means that Toronto will offer different looks that teams haven’t seen from them. Of course, the defence will be the big question and part of that will come with the way the forwards help out defensively.

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What do you think about the Leafs new top line? What are your expectations for them? Let us know in the comments below.