Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe has shuffled his left-wing lineup combinations this season, with Alexander Kerfoot currently holding the top-line spot alongside Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner. Assuming Michael Bunting returns to form and is moved back up ahead of the playoffs, there's still question marks over Kerfoot's position in the top six. Matthew Knies, currently playing for the University of Minnesota, is widely regarded as NHL ready and could be called up for the postseason.
- It seems like every couple of weeks we get back to this topic of the left wing situation and who's in a play where. Right now, Kerfoot's Fritz on the top line with Matthews and Marner, and that just doesn't seem to work. And I don't think it's Kerfoot's fault specifically. He gets the chances, just the finishing isn't there.
OK, I've accepted the fact that it's more about Bunting, and Bunting is playing lower. And maybe if he plays better, he gets that spot back. And I keep coming back to the fact that another move wasn't made at the deadline. I'm not complaining about it. Again, I think Dubas had an amazing deadline.
I guess that kind of pretty much confirms that Matthew Knies to the rescue is happening. I don't know. I mean, if you watch him, and if you've been paying attention to him, not just like the raw production, but like if you're watching him on the ice, he looks like he's NHL caliber. He has the speed, he has the skill, he has the strength to compete in the NHL. And I think it'd be a lot easier for him to break into the league in a bottom six role.
Now, if he hits the ground running and can have great synergy, maybe be on a line with, like, Ryan O'Reilly, that'd be pretty sick. But again, do you want to put Matthew Knies in that position to be playing on a line with Ryan O'Reilly, who will likely get some tough assignments in the playoffs against Tampa Bay? So that's where all the question marks are from.
And to be honest, I think it might make how the deadline finished for Dubas make a lot more sense if that is the concrete plan. Whether it works or whether it doesn't, who knows. But there seems to be a strong belief in Matthew Knies, not just from the fans but from the organization overall.
I think they believe that he can be a player. I think they believe that he can contribute to the team now. And if that works, then that makes the Leafs a whole lot level of dangerous because I don't think it helps the team to have elements of lines that just don't finish on those chances. And those are the moments that can bury you in a playoff series.
I don't want to see Kerfoot get grade A chances and just miss on them. And I think what we've seen so far is that there are certain players that work in certain spots. I think Bunting's spot is on that top line. I think Kerfoot's spot is in that bottom six.
And if it is Matthew Knies that swings in, great. If it's another prospect that's played games-- maybe it's an Alex Steeves. Maybe it's a Bobby McMann. Great, whatever. But the question marks and the moving around and, like, the Hail Mary line combinations? We can't have those question marks anymore. I can't have those question marks anymore.
I hope Sheldon Keefe doesn't have those question marks. And if he still does, I hope he takes this last stretch of the season, which is going to be pretty interesting. I hope he takes that time to really decide who is going to play where and, most importantly, who is going to be the best at that spot.