Earlier this evening, the Toronto Maple Leafs made a significant trade with the Los Angeles Kings.
Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas placed a call to Los Angeles Kings general manager Rob Blake and was able to land defenseman Jake Muzzin. In exchange for Muzzin, the Toronto Maple Leafs traded Carl Grundstrom, Sean Durzi and their first round draft selection in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.
It’s a solid trade for both sides. The Kings acquire solid prospects, while the Maple Leafs get an elite defenseman.
So far this season, Muzzin has been excellent for the Kings. While times have been tough in Southern California, the Woodstock, Ontario native has made the most of it. In 50 games played, Muzzin has tallied 4 goals, 17 assists, 2 power-play assists, 21:32 average time on ice, 92 blocks, 111 hits and a 50.5 corsi-for percentage.
The good news for the Toronto Maple Leafs is that Muzzin is rather consistent with his offensive production. In his previous four seasons, he has reached the 40 point plateau three times. The only time that Muzzin failed to reach 40 points in the last three seasons was in his 2016-2017 campaign.
Aside from Muzzin’s statistics, he’s well-known as a great two-way defenseman. In the defensive zone, he’s not timid at all. He’s not shy and will be physical when he needs to. In addition, he doesn’t mind blocking shots.
Plus, he’s pretty good when it comes to getting the puck out of the defensive zone. In the diagram below, I compared Jake Gardiner to Jake Muzzin (using CJ Turtoro’s A3Z Player Comparison Tool). In the diagram, you’ll see that Muzzin blows Gardiner out of the water when you focus on zone exits.
Where Will Muzzin Play?
Per the below tweet from Darren Dreger of TSN, Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock will feature Muzzin on his top defensive pairing alongside Morgan Rielly.
Muzzin will partner with Morgan Rielly and allows Babcock to move Hainsey down to 3rd pairing. Will be an excellent resource for Dermott.
— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) January 29, 2019
While it hasn’t been confirmed which side Muzzin will play on, my assumption is that Babcock will have Rielly play on the right side. Rielly has had some experience playing on the right side and has proven that he can be successful on his wrong side.
With the Toronto Maple Leafs adding Muzzin to the lineup, this means that someone has to shift down. In Dreger’s tweet, he mentions that Ron Hainsey might shift down to the third line. However, as of late, Nikita Zaitsev has been abysmal. I wonder if Babcock will move both Hainsey and Zaitsev down to the third line and have Travis Dermott play with Jake Gardiner.
Of course, if Babcock went through with my proposed lines, you’d have two defensemen playing on their wrong side, but that’s not a big deal. Plenty of defensemen play on their wrong side. Alec Martinez of the Los Angeles Kings, Niklas Hjalmarsson of the Arizona Coyotes, Shayne Gostisbehere of the Philadelphia Flyers and T.J. Brodie of the Calgary Flames are some of the most notable defensemen who play on their off-side. If they can do it, I’m sure that the Toronto Maple Leafs will be just fine with Rielly and Dermott playing on the other side.
With the Toronto Maple Leafs acquiring Muzzin, Dubas has delivered once again. He’s strengthened his defensive core and now they look prime to shut down their divisional rivals.
stats from hockey-reference and NHL.com
featured image photo credit – Josh Tessler