Toronto Maple Leafs: Time for Mitch Marner to silence doubters

Mitchell Marner #16 of the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Mitchell Marner #16 of the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /

With the Toronto Maple Leafs offence needing to pick up production, the spotlight continues to be on Mitch Marner to generate more on his end.

Whether fair or not, Mitch Marner will struggle to earn back the benefit of the doubt from certain Toronto Maple Leafs fans because of his contract.

One assist through four games is definitely not going to cut it and even Marner understands that. Given that it’s only four games into the season, there’s no reason to hit the panic button but the frustration is certainly understandable.

Marner hasn’t been short on chances this season and the team had to shuffle things around with Auston Matthews out the first three games. There hasn’t been a shortage of scoring chances and in the last game against the New York Rangers, Matthews had eight opportunities on his own.

At some point, the Leafs will see some of those chances end up in the back of the net. Given the Leafs put a lot of resources towards analytics, the organization probably expects the production to come.

"“I sense no frustration (in Marner),” head coach Sheldon Keefe said. “I think he’s feeling good, and I think he’s done a lot of good things. He and Auston picked up where they left off (in an overtime loss to the Rangers on Monday). Obviously, it didn’t go in for them, but I think the chemistry they have is there.“With Mitch, there’s an attention to production, he was one of the top scorers in the league last year, and he’s consistently been that, too. He also does a lot of good things for us without the puck. I’m not worried about the offensive side, it’s going to come.”"

The other thing we know about Keefe is that he is willing to move things around in hopes of generating more offence.

Mitch Marner could benefit from getting into dirty areas more

A major point of emphasis for Marner and his line is not only generating scoring chances closer to the net but getting those second and third opportunities in close.

Whether it’s Marner himself of his linemates, there needs to be an effort in that regard. At the same time, the Leafs could look into trying Marner in different situations, most notably, being willing to move him away from Matthews.

There’s no doubting that Matthews and Marner have been a dominant duo, especially in the regular season. However, no matter what happens in the playoffs, Keefe hasn’t been willing to split them up during their struggles.

It’s up to Keefe to try and avoid being too predictable with how he deploys his top players and preaching that they try to look for those opportunities that yield more favorable results.

As for Marner, the talk about his contract will continue as long as he is still attached to the near $11 million cap hit he costs the Leafs. All he has control of is the effort that he plays with and ensuring it leads to production which should come sooner rather than later.

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What are your thoughts on Marner’s play so far this season? Will he ever be able to justify his contract? Let us know in the comments below.