Mitch Marner: Should He Stay or Should He Go?

Mitch Marner celebrates goal with Auston Matthews
Mitch Marner celebrates goal with Auston Matthews (GETTY)

Since the Toronto Maple Leafs lost to the Boston Bruins in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, there has been much talk about what the franchise should do with its core four, with most eyes on Mitch Marner. Though Marner technically has a year left on his contract, which also includes a no-movement clause, there has been much debate about whether or not the Leafs should push him to waive the clause.

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Marner has been a star player on the Leafs Roster since his NHL debut during the 2016-17 season. During his first season playing in the national league, Marner set the franchise record for most assists in a single season by a rookie with 42 that year and helped the team land a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Since then, Marner has played 576 games and obtained a 194-445-693 record. Additionally, with the exception of his first year, Marner has been within the top three players during the regular season, nearing close to 100 points every season.

Now, the question still looms: should Marner stay, or is it time for him to go? In my opinion, I believe that Marner’s time with the Leafs isn’t over yet, and here’s why:

Mitch Marner is the Top Assist Player in the Franchise

There’s no question that Marner is a skilled player with a lot of strength in his playmaking abilities. He can read the game and anticipate teammates’ movements in split seconds, creating quick, precise passes that create goal-scoring opportunities. During the 2023-24 season, Marner led the team in assists at 59 in just 69 games played. Following behind him were teammates William Nylander, who had 58 assists in 82 games played, and Auston Matthews, who had 38 assists in 81 games. If you compare the number of assists to the number of games played this season, it’s clear that Marner came out on top, and it only makes you wonder what that number might have been had he played more games. Since his debut with the Leafs, Marner has maintained consistency as one of the franchise’s top players. This consistency reflects his reliability and provides the Leafs with a dependable source of offense.

Additionally, Marner’s contributions to power plays don’t go unnoticed. Former head coach Sheldon Keefe has praised him for his playmaking abilities—especially on power plays—with an emphasis on his ability to navigate the neutral zone and his ability to distribute and shoot the puck effectively to keep defenders guessing.

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Mitch Marner Attempts to win Puck Back From Steven Stamkos in the Neutral Zone
Mitch Marner Attempts to win Puck Back From Steven Stamkos in the Neutral Zone

Being the player to score goals is important, but often, those goals don’t get made without help from other teammates. If the Leafs say goodbye to Marner, they are saying goodbye to a pivotal player who is vital in helping with critical goals through precise plays.

New Head Coach Potential for the Leafs

On May 17, 2024, the Toronto Maple Leafs named Craig Berube their new head coach. Replacing the head coach after nine years is a huge change for the team’s chemistry, and roster changes will undoubtedly add to this shift.

Due to the number of significant changes occurring within the franchise, giving the core players, including Marner, a chance to adapt and thrive under new management is essential. Coaches have different communication styles, teaching methods, and insights into players, meaning this change could lead to more individual player development. Under new management, Marner may receive different strategies and fresh perspectives on improving his game, which will help elevate his performance and, therefore, the team’s performance. When the Leafs lost to Boston in the playoffs this year, Marner faced much criticism for his postseason performance. Yes, some things could have been better, and there is definitely room for improvement; however, a single player should not shoulder all the blame for an entire team’s shortcomings.

The Toronto Maple Leafs will be heading into the 2024-25 season with a clean slate, a new coach, and no doubt roster changes. However, I believe that disrupting the core players and piling on even more changes, such as removing Marner, could disrupt the team more than necessary and lead to a downgrade in performance during the 2024-25 season.

Strong Team Chemistry

When it comes to the Toronto Maple Leafs, there is undeniable team chemistry, especially between the core players. This chemistry is essential to a successful team, and as mentioned above, disrupting it could negatively impact the team rather than help.

Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews with the belt
Toronto Maple Leafs via X

If you look at Marner, the top assist leader, and Matthews, the top goal leader for the Leafs this season, it’s clear this is a pair with powerful chemistry. The two players have shown time and time again that they can easily follow each other’s plays, strategically working alongside one another to set up and score goals. This level of understanding that Matthews and Marner have isn’t something that magically happens overnight; it’s the result of countless hours spent practicing, studying, and building trust on the ice. If Marner were to part ways with the Leafs, it would be felt throughout the whole team, and it would take a while before there were two players with the level of chemistry that he and Matthews have.

Overall, I believe that Mitch Marner is a critical player in the Toronto Maple Leafs’ success. His chemistry with the team and exceptional playmaking skills, combined with the potential a new head coach brings, are compelling reasons for him to stay. Marner’s presence not only elevates the Leafs’ offensive capabilities but also promotes teamwork, resilience, and commitment.

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