What If Matthew Lombardi Is Healthy?

Jonathan Willis
August 28 2011 05:52AM

There have been hints this summer that Matthew Lombardi, acquired as a salary dump from the Nashville Predators earlier this off-season, may be healthy in time for training camp with the Leafs. Those hints came from people like Kevin Allen and Jeff Marek – reliable sources – and a couple of weeks ago Chemmy looked at where Lombardi might fit into the lineup.

Today, I wanted to spend a little more time looking at the role Lombardi has played over the last three seasons, and what it could mean for the Leafs if he is healthy.

Firstly, I agree with Chemmy on where a healthy Lombardi slots into the depth chart. Mikhail Grabovski has one of the top-two centre roles on the team, and the other should go to oft-injured (and generally undervalued) playmaker Tim Connolly. That leaves Lombardi in the third slot, pushing Tyler Bozak down the depth chart and likely meaning that Kadri starts on the wing. Both of those moves make sense, given how Bozak squandered a golden opportunity last season and the advisability of lessening the defensive responsibilities of a young player like Kadri.

With that out of the way, let’s look at what Lombardi where Lombardi has played and how he’s performed over the last few seasons.

Ice-Time

Season EVTOI/GM PPTOI/GM SHTOI/GM
2007-08 13.15 1.12 3.02
2008-09 13.62 2.25 1.80
2009-10 13.80 3.33 0.78
Average 13.52 2.23 1.87

Lombardi has been used in all situations. In Phoenix, where offensive options were more difficult to find up the middle than in Calgary, he played extensively on the power play. In Calgary, his role was more defense-oriented: he killed a lot of penalties.

Power Play Production

Season PPPTS/60 GFON/60
2007-08 2.62 3.93
2008-09 2.78 3.97
2009-10 3.36 5.28
Average 2.92 4.39

Matthew Lombardi’s power play production over the years has not been especially good. His scoring numbers range from poor to mediocre, and the goals-for numbers are in that same range. For the Leafs, this shouldn’t represent a major problem; Tim Connolly is a power play virtuoso and Mikhail Grabovski’s totals are superior to those of Lombardi. This probably isn’t a situation where Lombardi will be employed regularly as a Leaf.

Even-Strength Statistics

Season EVPTS/60 QualComp Rk. ZoneStart Rel. Corsi
2007-08 1.50 7/15 49.4 -8.8
2008-09 2.46 8/15 52.4 -1.7
2009-10 2.11 14/14 57.7 -0.6
Average 2.02 10/15 53.2 -3.7

What do these numbers show us? They show us a player suited to a role on an even-strength scoring line.

Lombardi’s never been a great player from a Corsi standpoint, though given offensive-zone minutes against middling opposition he’s near the break-even mark. What he is good at is generating offense – his PTS/60 numbers are well above average, easily deserving of heavy minutes were they the only measure of success.

In other words, a healthy Lombardi would be well-suited to the role of third-line center/penalty-killer in Toronto. He can generate offense, and playing with linemates like Kadri and Armstrong (the two players Chemmy suggests) would seem to be ideal – it would give the Leafs a third-line that could put up points and not ask too much of any of the players involved. Lombardi would also be a boon to the Leafs’ woeful penalty kill.

In short, not only would Lombardi be a great fit for the Leafs’ needs, but if healthy he could transform the Franson trade with Nashville from a clear win to a landslide win.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 Danny Gray
August 28 2011, 07:39AM
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I wonder if Nashville knew that Lombardi could be back this season, but was unwilling to assume the risk that one more concussion could potentially end his career? This would make much more sense to me. Otherwise I have no idea what Poile was thinking.

Either way a healthy Lombardi is nothing but a good thing for the Leafs.

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#3 Danny Gray
August 28 2011, 06:58PM
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@Jonathan Willis

As we learn more about concussions it's clear that Lombardi could go from ready to back on the IR in one day, so it's tough to make any assumptions about what Nashville thought. This is one of the advantages of both cap space and wealthy ownership.

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#4 Gravyface
August 29 2011, 06:24AM
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Bozak centers the 3rd line; Lombardi plays LW, Armstrong RW.

Kadri makes the club playing top 6 or he's logging huge minutes in the AHL with Colborne and Frattin.

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#5 walter bishop
August 29 2011, 09:03AM
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2nd & 3rd line centre position (lets get serious here Grabo+Kulie+Mac is Leafs no.1 line) decision is primarily based on chemistry with and best production out of Kessel. If Lombardi is healthy enough for full contact he will get opportunity to compete for 2nd Centre against Connolly. Loser becomes 3rd centre which is a good thing because finally Leafs may have a scoring 3rd line. Kessel needs protected minutes (Kessel is invisible when directly challenged by top quality competition most nights) and given reduced ice time on 2nd line, Wilson will have option to occasionally place Kessel on 3rd line for goal production. Grabo line attracts best quality of competition resulting in higher production in Connolly/Lomardi+Lupul+Kessel line. With Connolly and Liles+Franson we will see improved PP to say 18%, of course if all are healthy through most of season. All this enough for final playoff spot, unlikely because Leafs must reduce last season goal differential of (33) down to negative single digit. Reimer Sv% last season was trending downwards, unreasonable to expect .921 over 60 games, .910 is more plausible and possibly a bit high. Given Liles and Franson are more offensive than defensive minded defensemen look for SA to increase this season over last, therefore total GA to stay the same around 245. Leafs will need to score at a minimum of 235 goals or 22 more goals over last season. Will additions of Connolly, Lombardi, Liles, Franson, healthy Lupul, full season of Grabo line together, etc result in 22+ more goals? Necessary for Leafs to make playoffs, harder to do with improvements in Buffalo, NYR, arguably Philly, Caps, healthy Pit?, etc.

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