One way that Toronto Maple Leafs’ fans will measure this season is how their two new players – Tyler Bertuzzi and Max Domi – will fare. Can they compare with one of the players they will replace – Michael Bunting? This is the kind of debate that hockey fans love to engage in. It should fuel some hot discussions as the season unfolds.

In this post, I’ll explore the question of whether either Bertuzzi or Domi can surpass Bunting’s goal-scoring feat of putting up 23 goals in two consecutive seasons. First, I’ll lay out how good Bunting was with the team in his two seasons there.

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The Matthews / Marner Factor: Are They Game-Changers?

It’s undeniable that playing with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner can elevate a player’s performance to new heights. There’s no question that Bunting’s success during his time with the Maple Leafs was impacted positively by his being on the team’s top line. The presence of superstar playmakers like Marner and Matthews does create chances that lead to scoring goals.

Former Maple Leafs Michael Bunting

Bunting’s 23 goals weren’t solely a product of his own skill but were significantly influenced by the chemistry he shared with Matthews and Marner.

Considering Bunting’s Entire Journey

Yet Bunting’s rise to the NHL was more than his two seasons in partnership with Matthews and Marner. In his time with this twosome, he had an impressive sixth place in NHL’s 5v5 scoring. In his 5v5 time, he trailed only Marner by a single goal and three points.

Last season, when he was placed lower in the team’s lineup – more of a middle-six forward – his ranking slipped to 82nd place in the NHL. Obviously, this decline can be interpreted within the context of his shift to a different lineup role under Coach Sheldon Keefe. However, Bunting still – even in his new “surroundings” – did match his 23-goal output.

So, yes it matters that he played with Matthews and Marner; but, no it wasn’t the entire story. He still scored 23 goals. The biggest difference was that he didn’t get as many assits – only 26 last season and 40 the season before. What might that mean?

Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Baun, Minten, Bertuzzi & Bunting

Turning to Bertuzzi and Domi

Bunting’s ability to net crucial goals, even without the Matthews-Marner partnership, speaks to his own ability. Can either Bertuzzi and Domi surpass Bunting’s last two seasons?

Max Domi, now with the Maple Leafs

We know that Bertuzzi has a knack for finding the net. We also know that Domi has a tenacity and offensive flair. Both players should be presented with similar opportunities to demonstrate their worth this season. If the Matthews and Marner connection is the key, it would seem that Bertuzzi has the best chance to win the battle. He’ll likely be penciled into the first-line spot that Bunting once held.

The Bottom Line

Although none of the three players probably have the other two’s success on their competitive minds, for me (and possibly other Maple Leafs’ fans) the upcoming NHL season could provoke some interesting dialogue about goal-scoring.

I’ll be watching to see if Bertuzzi and Domi can individually outshine Bunting’s 23 goals for the past two seasons. Perhaps more important is the kind of chemistry the new Maple Leafs’ players will bring. How will they fit in? How determined will they be to rise to the challenge they have?

If both can score 23 goals plus, then the Maple Leafs will have done well in these additions.

Related: Will Maple Leafs Fans See Kyle Clifford This Season?

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