The Toronto Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe has decided to move William Nylander to the team’s third line. What’s the reason?
In the video below, coach Keefe shares what he’s thinking by moving Nylander down a line. The result is that now the Maple Leafs have reorganized their lineup to put their three top scorers on three different lines. In simple terms, coach Keefe notes that both John Tavares and William Nylander have cooled off recently. The move, he believes, will help both of them get going again.
Moving Nylander Down a Line Is Strategic
But really, it seems to me that Keefe’s decision to split his top scorers into three different lines is a strategic move aimed at Nylander. He believes letting Nylander speed up his game can boost the team’s offensive production. That makes sense. By spreading out his top players, Keefe hopes to create a more balanced attack and increase the likelihood of scoring from multiple lines.
Additionally, the approach might offer Tavares and Nylander a chance to increase their individual production. In terms of Tavares specifically, he’s struggled to score recently; and, putting him with Marner has always worked in the past.
Ultimately, Keefe’s goal is to create more scoring opportunities and diversify the team’s offensive threats. His aim is the playoffs. If it works, and with Ryan O’Reilly returning one day soon, such a move could prove beneficial in the long run.
By long run, I mean particularly as the team heads into the playoffs. Keefe believes having three potent lines can help his team present more challenges for the opposition. It makes sense.
The Focus Is Re-energizing Tavares and Nylander
Keefe notes that he’s concerned about the recent dip in production from Tavares and Nylander. Neither, he feels, has been playing up to usual standards. That hasn’t however been true of Matthews and Marner. In recent games, both have had good nights.
But Tavares and Nylander have not been as effective. Keefe’s decision to split up his top scorers seeks a way to help his players return to their dominant form. He’s taking a chance that by putting Tavares with Michael Bunting on the left win and Marner on the right wing, he’ll get going again. Marner’s had that impact on Tavares before.
At the same time, coach Keefe is creating a speed line with Bobby McMann on the left wing and Sam Lafferty at the center position. Such a line gives Nylander more chances to play on his own. He believes that Nylander’s offence is good enough to drive a line by himself.
If This Move Works, the Team Will Have Three Strong Lines
Overall, while Keefe says his strategy is focused on creating a more balanced and dynamic offensive attack, I have to think his focus is basically on Nylander. Keefe believes in Nylander’s ability to play with a high level of intensity and drive. There’s no question that both McMann and Lafferty have fire in their bellies.
By pairing Nylander with linemates who are also playing at a high level, Keefe believes he can become a key driver of the team’s offence again. Keefe also noted in the interview that he’s been working with Nylander to improve his ability to escape from pressure, keep the puck moving, and attack the perimeter. He seems to want Nylander to carry the puck more.
Getting Back to What Makes the Maple Leafs Potent on Offence
Overall, I’m guessing that Keefe wants to return to the Maple Leafs’ philosophy of maintaining puck possession and attacking the perimeter. By doing so, he’s seeking to create more scoring chances.
Keefe is basically pumping air into Nylander’s tires, encouraging him to play with more pace and be more aggressive on the attack. Nylander’s a talented player, and Keefe believes he’s at his best when he’s flying around the ice. If it’s possible, increasing Nylander’s confidence and assertiveness is the goal.
Is Keefe Challenging Nylander to Wind It Up Even More?
The surprise for me in this approach is that I don’t think Nylander needs much of an invitation to wind it up more. But that’s what Keefe seems to be emphasizing. He wants Nylander to hold onto the puck more and look for more chances to challenge the opposition. He believes encouraging Nylander to play with more pace and to attack even more aggressively is the right focus.
During the last game against the Ottawa Senators, Nylander created a great scoring opportunity for McMann in close with a gorgeous pass. It almost resulted in McMann’s first NHL goal. I have to think that play might be on Keefe’s mind with this latest move.
The Maple Leafs Are a Team Keefe Believes Will Be Better by Playing Faster
Overall, if Keefe is right, the move might be fun for Maple Leafs’ fans. When the Maple Leafs’ lines are flying up and down the ice, playing with a high level of intensity and confidence, the result is more chances to showcase the team’s skills.
In this move, Keefe is emphasizing the importance of playing with pace and attacking aggressively. How fun could that be if it works?
It reminds me of the Baja Men’s “Who Let the Dogs Out.” It would seem that Keefe is inviting Nylander to open up his game as a way to increase the team’s chances of success on the ice.
Could be fun!