Systems Analysis: An examination of the Toronto Maple Leafs unique, effective approach to creating offence

There are two widely accepted winning formulas in the NHL. One is centred on pace, and the other on physicality.

Teams want skill, players who create offensive advantages and capitalize, but when general managers speak of their vision, the way they want their team to play, one usually hears some form of the statements below. Sometimes both.

"We want to be a fast team." 

"We want to be hard to play against." 

Those maxims aren't without merit. Just take the Toronto Maple Leafs. Their lineup's construction, with its mix of speedsters, puck-retrievers, and to a lesser extent, net-front bruisers, reflects the value of playing hard and fast alike.

In an NHL almost slavishly devoted to achieving those ends, though, the Maple Leafs assemblage of pace and toughness looks positively non-aligned compared to the Cold War arms race in which the rest of the league is engaged.

They've charted a different path, one all their own. Their strategy, one tailormade for their creative, quick-thinking forwards is one of puck possession.

Their offence focuses primarily on lateral movement and finding open ice. Toronto operates like of the world's best soccer clubs; they don't mind regrouping, moving the puck back and forth, east and west many times over. They leverage all five skaters to get inside the opposition's structure; they circulate the puck top gain ice on the defence, use side switches to imbalance it, give-and-gos to pierce it, and rotations to deceive it. Those possession mechanics allow the Leafs not only to control the flow of the game but also to create advantages in every facet of offensive play. {

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NHL Toronto Maple Leafs Toronto Maple Leafs NHL Mitchell Marner Auston Matthews William Nylander Morgan Rielly
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