Toronto Maple Leafs: Keefe right to call out Matthews and Marner

Andrew Cogliano #11 of the San Jose Sharks to contain Auston Matthews #34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Andrew Cogliano #11 of the San Jose Sharks to contain Auston Matthews #34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /

Sheldon Keefe made sure to put the attention in the right place after the Toronto Maple Leafs put forth a disappointing effort against the San Jose Sharks.

On a night where the Toronto Maple Leafs’ top players were outplayed by the top players on the San Jose Sharks, Sheldon Keefe wasn’t going to make Nick Ritchie the focus of the post-game analysis.

It was clear that the Leafs were looking for a spark by moving Nick Ritchie off the top line. Ritchie didn’t play well but that doesn’t excuse the way Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner performed.

“I can tell the line of questioning I’ve been getting the last number of days, people want to pile on Nick Ritchie here, but let’s not narrow the focus too much,” the Keefe said after the loss, as reported by’s Dave McCarthy.

He went a step further to suggest that Matthews and Marner shouldn’t be off the hook either after he was being repeatedly asked about Ritchie.

"“You should be asking as many questions about [Auston] Matthews and [Mitch] Marner as you are Ritch,” Keefe said via David Alter of the Hockey News."

Looking past the numbers and just by watching Matthews and Marner on the ice, the comments from the Leafs head coach were definitely valid. Too often, they made lazy plays in the defensive zone which led to two goals against and were second-guessing themselves offensively.

Should Sheldon Keefe consider splitting up Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews?

It’s no secret that losing Zach Hyman was tough for the Leafs in many ways but his departure should not be having this type of impact on the top line.

Against the New York Rangers, Matthews had no problem generating scoring chances and likely would’ve had more luck if it weren’t for Igor Shesterkin’s effort in net. The trio definitely took a step back and really, Matthews and Marner can’t just acknowledge it after the game, it needs to happen off the ice.

It’s becoming clearer when things aren’t going their way, Matthews and Marner struggle to make the adjustments they need to make. San Jose wasn’t making it easy to get to the front of the net but when the opportunities were there, the Leafs couldn’t get to the loose pucks.

Look no further than the goal by Jason Spezza which was caused by the fourth line creating havoc for the Sharks defence. Even the goal by John Tavares in the third period was all because of him being in the spot to capitalize on the second chance.

There were flashes when Matthews and Marner looked like they were going to break through but nothing came from it. At times, Tavares and Nylander were moved up in order to create a spark but if this continues, could the Leafs consider something more drastic?

It’s definitely too early for the team to split up the top line but the absence of production from Matthews and Marner stems from the playoffs, this isn’t a new development. At some point, Keefe might need to consider a move, even temporary so that both players can get back on track.

Related Story. Marner needs to step up. light

What are your thoughts on the Leafs’ loss to the Sharks? Can Matthews and Marner turn things around? Let us know in the comments below.