Toronto Maple Leaf forward Mitch Marner, known for his electrifying playmaking, has hit a rough patch recently. That prompted coach Sheldon Keefe to make a bold move in practice on Monday, shifting Marner down to the second line as he looks to reignite the offense.
Mitch Marner, who leads the Maple Leafs in even-strength points this season, with 13, has seen a dip in his usual stellar performance. With just three assists in his last seven games, the team is searching for solutions to get Marner back on track.
Keefe’s decision to demote Marner to the second line is not unprecedented; it’s a strategic move he has employed in the past when the team struggles. The recent move follows Keefe’s critical assessment of Marner’s play, acknowledging that the star forward hasn’t quite found his groove.
After Monday’s practice, Marner admitted to the challenges he’s facing:
“Yeah, obviously not as great as it usually is and as I like it.”
He emphasized the need for patience and a return to his natural style of play. Marner also highlighted the importance of maintaining a calm and steady mindset, drawing on his experience of navigating similar challenges throughout his career.
“Just got to make sure I’m staying patient out there and not trying to force anything and do what I do best, and that’s bring high energy, bring good pace out there and when the puck gets into my hands trust my abilities to do things with it.”
What coach Sheldon Keefe has said about Mitch Marner
For Mitch Marner, it isn’t uncharted territory. Last season, he faced a similar situation, getting benched for a shift against the Anaheim Ducks early in the 2022-23 season.
However, Marner rebounded impressively, setting a franchise record with a 23-game points streak and earning a finalist spot for the prestigious Frank J. Selke Trophy, awarded to the NHL‘s top defensive forward.
Coach Keefe, aware of the pressure Marner puts on himself, expressed confidence in the player’s ability to bounce back. Keefe outlined plans to work on specific aspects of Marner’s game to help him rediscover his top form:
“He knows that he needs to be better. We’re going to help him through it.”
Marner’s recent struggles come at a time when the Maple Leafs are grappling with inconsistency.