Will the Toronto Maple Leafs regret not making an upgrade on their blueline?
The Toronto Maple Leafs are going to regret not making a trade to acquire another depth defenseman prior to the NHL trade deadline. Although the Maple Leafs were active in the trade market when it came to forwards, what the club truly needed was to bolster the team’s blue line.
While the acquisition of Tomas Plekanec will certainly help Toronto’s center depth, the team now risks putting a ton of pressure on their top-four defensemen. With limited defensive depth on the roster and few minor league options, any injury to the Maple Leafs’ top-four defensemen could be a fatal blow come playoff time.
More from Puck Prose
- Detroit Red Wings 2023 Rookie Camp Has Plenty of Ups and Downs
- This Columbus Blue Jackets rookie doesn’t want to be forgotten
- 2 trades the Boston Bruins must make to secure the Stanley Cup
- 3 reasons the Avalanche won’t win the Stanley Cup in 2024
- This is a big year for Alex Turcotte and the Los Angeles Kings
The pairings of Morgan Rielly and Ron Hainsey along with Jake Gardiner and Nikita Zaitsev have performed exceptionally well this season. These four players have shown they can be reliable options while helping the Maple Leafs take the next step in this year’s postseason.
However, where things begin to get worrisome is how dramatically the depth falls off beyond the top-four pairings. Should there be any injury to one of the four defensemen, Toronto will find itself in a tough position trying to replace that void.
Travis Dermott is in his rookie season with less than 25 games under his belt in the NHL. He’s been impressive in his limited time with the Maple Leafs but placing him in a top-four role late in the season or in the playoffs would be asking a lot. If anything it would put a major target on the 21-year old’s back as opposing teams would look to expose the rookie given his lack of experience.
Roman Polak is the closest thing to a teacher’s pet you can find in the NHL as coach Mike Babcock shows extreme favoritism towards the bruising defender. However, Polak’s speed and mobility have been an issue all season after a leg injury ended his year in last April.
Too often Polak has been caught out of position and been unable to recover due to his poor skating. Even though the game slows down in the postseason, asking Polak to be anything more than a third-pairing defenseman would hurt the Maple Leafs.
Then there’s the issue of the lack of options in the minor-league system. Andreas Borgman played 48 games with Toronto but that was more out of necessity to fill the position than strong play. Justin Holl scored two goals in two games in a brief call-up but the Maple Leafs don’t need another offensive defenseman in the playoffs. Then there’s the last player any Toronto fan wants to see ever again and that would be Martin Marincin.
With such a glaring need on the blue line it’s shocking the Maple Leafs didn’t acquire a depth defenseman simply to have the extra insurance in case of injury. The player might not have contributed much at the end of the year but at least another option would have been available in the event it would be needed.
Now with the trade deadline passed and no outside help available, the Maple Leafs will be forced to close their eyes, cross their fingers, and hope nobody gets hurt.