Maple Leafs explained why the new playing style requires patience for Maple Leafs’ bottom six.

The Toronto Maple Leafs are experiencing a slower start to the season, attributed to the introduction of a new playing style for the team’s bottom-six units. While the top two lines, featuring elite talents like Auston Matthews, William Nylander, and newcomers Matthews Knies and Tyler Bertuzzi, continue as puck-possession units, the bottom six faces a different challenge due to a lack of elite skill.

The team’s construction, influenced by the NHL’s salary cap constraints, populates the bottom six with speed and tenacious grinders. The third line comprises Max Domi, Nick Robertson, and Calle Jarnkrok, while the fourth line features Noah Gregor, David Kampf, and Bobby McMann. These lines adopt a direct, aggressive style reminiscent of the classic “dump-and-chase” strategy from the past, emphasizing disruptive forechecking and creating pressure to force turnovers.

The bottom-six forwards, comprising young players on entry-level contracts and veterans with less elite skill, rely on grit and determination. The strategic shift to a more aggressive style is explained by the coaching staff’s intention to maximize the talent in the top six, while adapting a different, direct approach for the bottom six.

Hockey analysts Elliotte Friedman and Kevin Bieksa highlight this dual-style approach, where the top lines maintain a possession-oriented game, and the bottom lines adopt a more direct, dump-and-chase strategy. This strategic blend aims to leverage the team’s depth, combining elite playmakers and hardworking players for a diverse offensive approach, potentially enhancing playoff success.

Despite initial struggles, the evolving strategies and the team’s construction provide insights into a long-term vision focused on postseason triumph. Head Coach Sheldon Keefe expresses satisfaction with the team’s standing in a challenging league, emphasizing the mantra of Leafs Nation that “Only the playoffs matter.” The team’s strategy appears to involve working out the intricacies of the new playing styles over the regular season, with a noticeable shift in the team’s approach.

While uncertainties remain about how the new styles will pan out, the bottom six forward units have shown improvement over the past three weeks. The question now is whether they can further refine their play before the postseason begins, setting the stage for an exciting playoff run.

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