Maple Leafs Should Keep Core Four Intact With Berube in Charge

Maple Leafs Should Keep Core Four Intact With Berube in Charge

From the second they were eliminated in Game 7 of the first round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs by the Boston Bruins, speculation has run rampant on what sort of changes the Toronto Maple Leafs will make heading into the 2024-25 season. The group has continued to disappoint year after year in the playoffs, which has many fans thinking potentially massive changes are coming.

One of those changes has already taken place, as Sheldon Keefe was fired shortly after the Maple Leafs’ exit. He has since been replaced by Craig Berube, a coach who brings in winning experience having hoisted the Stanley Cup as the head coach of the St. Louis Blues in 2019.

Maple Leafs Best to Take One Last Shot

While firing Keefe was certainly a significant move, a large chunk of the Maple Leafs fan base wants, and expects, more to be done. To many, the “core four” of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, and John Tavares have proven they aren’t capable of bringing the team to a Stanley Cup, while their large salaries have also prevented both former general manager (GM) Kyle Dubas and current GM Brad Treliving from addressing other holes on the roster.

Of the core four, it is Marner who has become the whipping boy as of late. The 27-year-old is one of the game’s best offensive producers each and every regular season, but lacks the physicality and maximum effort needed to have playoff success. His play in this year’s postseason was abysmal, as he managed just one goal and two assists in seven games against the Bruins.

Many fans are hoping to see Marner traded this offseason, and that certainly appears to be a distinct possibility. That said, Marner himself will be the one to dictate that, as he is set to enter the final year of his contract which carries a full no-movement clause. In other words, if he wants to stay put, that is exactly what will happen.

Berube Can Change Maple Leafs Culture

While Maple Leafs fans may not be open to the idea right now, keeping Marner, along with the entire “core four” intact, may be the best decision for Treliving to make. Through his five seasons in Toronto, Keefe was often criticized for not being hard enough on his top players, which seemed to result in them not developing that winning mentality. Under Berube, that will be far different.

Berube is as hardnosed of a coach as they come today. He won’t put up with any type of nonsense or what he deems unacceptable effort on the ice, regardless of whether it comes in game one of the regular season or Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. He will undoubtedly irritate players at times, but at the end of the day, he will make them better and seems to be able to unlock even more potential than anyone realized any particular individual possessed.

Having a coach who can really push a player and unlock something different in them would be huge for someone like Marner, who by all accounts has a world-class skill set. If there is anyone who can get through to him and have him unleash his full potential in the playoffs, it’s Berube.

Leafs Won’t Win a Marner Trade

What also puts the Maple Leafs in a tough situation is that they won’t come close to getting proper value back on a Marner trade. His value is at an all-time low right now following his latest playoff struggles, and the fact he has just one year left on his contract hurts as well. Keeping him around for the last year of his deal to see if Berube is able to unleash something different in him makes far more sense for the Maple Leafs than to move him in a deal they know they will come out on the losing end of.

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