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Sunday FTB: who’s to blame for the anemic Leafs power play?

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and Matthews gets nominated for the Byng.

Vancouver Canucks v Toronto Maple Leafs
TORONTO, ON - MAY 1: Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe talks to Joe Thornton #97 and Mitchell Marner #16 on the bench against the Vancouver Canucks during the third period at the Scotiabank Arena on May 1, 2021 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Photo by Kevin Sousa/NHLI via Getty Images

There’s been a lot of power play talk this season, and rightfully so, because the Leafs power play is terrible. Watching the Tampa Bay Lightning and Colorado Avalanche operate this week has only solidified how silly the Leafs system and execution has been.

In the past week we’ve gotten pitchforks pointed at Mitch Marner, Sheldon Keefe, Manny Malhotra, shooting percentage. We’ve had debunked gossip and galaxy brain conspiracies. But settling all that aside, who is to blame for the Leafs power play?

Is it Mitch Marner?

No, I don’t think it’s one player’s fault for going out and executing a system that was designed by his boss. If he had been a chaotic mess trying dozens of different tactics, then that would’ve been a problem. We instead saw Marner all season do the same actions to ill effect, that indicates that he was following the system.

As for the story about refusing roles, that rumour has been denied. I think the grain of truth that created the rumour was that Keefe (and probably Dubas too) believed in Marner and trusted that he was the guy, as they’ve said all season prompted and unprompted. I think this was less of Marner having a big head and more of the Leafs not trusting Nylander — an anxiety that can now be put to rest.

Is it Manny Malhotra?

The only reason why I don’t say yes here is because the problems with the Leafs power play have existed before Malhotra joined the coaching staff. Since 2018, shots and expected goals for have dropped. This season actually saw a slight increase in shots for, but a decrease in goals.

We don’t know if Malhotra was pushing for a different system or was an advocate of this one. People will gives their theories for how things work depending on if they’ve decided to like or hate the person they’re blaming. In reality, we don’t know.

Is it Sheldon Keefe?

He is the head coach after all and collaborates on all decisions. The systems and personnel deployment start and end with him, and he spoke about being allowed to create a new system in the post-season press conference. Also, the frustrating pattern of Nylander off the power play is mirrored in Keefe’s unwillingness to release Nylander from his tight leash at even strength.

I will also postulate that the NHL power play anchored by Marner at the right point is very similar to the Toronto Marlies power play anchored by Jeremy Bracco from the same spot back when Keefe was the coach there. Back then in that league, it was much easier to attack in, find seams through AHL defenders, or shoot from distance on AHL goalies. Those successes in the AHL don’t translate to the NHL and I think the evidence over the past few years is clear.

Despite the bump in shooting percentage after Matthews was put on the first unit, the power play under Keefe has been consistently underwhelming, regardless of who his assistants are. Considering this, and the fact that he’s the head coach, this failure is on him. As they said in the press conference, Keefe isn’t getting fired just yet, but this is his one chance to change it up.

And judging by the last Leafs power play before their season ended, Nylander will be on the wing opposite Matthews.


Various Leafs and Branches

PPP Roundtable: How we’re feeling right now about the Leafs | by: us

Leafs Prospect Mikhail Abramov is a QMJHL Champion | by: Brigstew

Rocket Richard winner Auston Matthews has been nominated for the Lady Byng, for gentlemanly conduct on the ice. Don’t think too much about it, it’s just high points low penalty minutes.

The Tampa Bay Lightning are up 3-1 in their series against the Carolina Hurricanes after a massive 6-4 win at home. The game included an eight-goal second period and the Lightning had more power play goals in said period than the Leafs did in seven games against Montreal. Here’s their best goal. [Raw Charge]

The New York Islanders beat the Boston Bruins in a tight game to tie the series 2-2. David Pastrnak missed a wide open net (and I mean wide open) that ultimately turned out to be pretty important in the grand scheme of things. [Lighthouse Hockey]

Taya Currie made history as the first girl drafted in the OHL Draft. The 16-year-old was drafted by the Sarnia Sting out of AAA in the last round of the draft. Scouts, and especially her coach, say she has a bright future.