Editor’s Note: Here’s a smoking gun if you ever needed one. Good Lord, Shanahan blew it.
Mikhail Grabovski took a hit from Chris Neil last night that looked like it may have resulted in a head injury, and now today Tim Connolly and Nazem Kadri each missed practice Wednesday due to respective “upper-body” and “lower-body” boo boos.
It’s certainly not a new thing for injury and health concerns to pop up in training camp or as the season gets underway but last season the Leafs nearly had their top-six forwards play the full campaign with a clean bill of health. Phil Kessel, Nikolai Kulemin, Clarke MacArthur and Tyler Bozak all played the full season, while Grabovski played 81, missing the single game due to the birth of his daughter Lily.
When Brian Burke went out and signed Tim Connolly and traded for Matthew Lombardi, he can’t have kidded himself that either of the two would play the full season. However with the pair on the shelf already – and Lombardi not quite 100% yet – it looks like the Leafs may be scrambling to get something ressembling an NHL lineup by next week.
After all, this isn’t the first time Grabovski has been on the receiving end of a scary collision: He was rocked twice by Zdeno Chara during a game last season but stayed in the game. It may be wise to shut the guy down for the remainder of the preseason. After all, he’s proved that he still has it—With six points in his time so far in preseason, there’s little use to risk sending him to the dressing room.
Centreman depth is something that the Leafs gained this summer that they wouldn’t want to lose. You don’t necessarily want to have your top three guys as question marks going into the season and piecing together your wingers is tough without the guys down the middle. It seems a given that Lupul and Kessel will be centred by Connolly and that MacArthur and Kulemin will be with Grabovski but the bottom six is a little tougher to predict. Shutting down Grabovski as well as Connolly will allow Leafs coach Ron Wilson to look a little more at Matt Frattin or Nazem Kadri (who’s knee injury is reportedly not serious) in big line and powerplay line minutes against a very fine-tuned Detroit roster for the final two preseason games.
It gives the Leafs a little bit more reason to find scoring depth on other parts of the roster, as the added urgency of possibly beginning the season without one or your top six forwards has rocked Leafs Nation hard over the last 24 hours. Whether that depth comes with Kadri, Colby Armstrong, or even the sensational pre-season of defenseman Jake Gardiner, it’s nice to give the Leafs a little added insurance as we head into the season.
Whether Lombardi can get into a couple of games for the end of preseason is one thing. Any production he brings is a bonus from the Franson trade which was originally conceived to shed Nashville’s salary. Connolly is a different beast—In the absence of another big-name scoring free agent, he will be counted on to shed some of the scoring burden and allow the Leafs a few extra goals this season and help them towards a playoff spot. But he, along with Grabovski, should be shut down until at least the season opener.