Perhaps one of the most interesting things about the James van Riemsdyk for Luke Schenn trade that went down this past weekend is the way it quickly re-shaped the Maple Leafs’ roster. Schenn was all over the place on the blue line, minutes climbing and falling from game to game, but his counterpart in the deal likely won’t suffer the same fate.
As Cam pointed out before, Schenn’s role on the team was somewhat murky and he didn’t pan out to much of anything specifically. "JvR" is a different story, as we’re expecting him to plug right in to the Leafs’ top six forward group, bolstering their wings quite substantially. This has resulted in talks of how the team can fit him in, given the current state of what the Leafs have up front.
In terms of percentage, the Leafs iced the Kulemin-Grabovski-MacArthur line as their "second line" a lot last season. The only combination used more, as you’d expect, was Lupul-Bozak-Kessel.
Since we’re finding it tough to envision a break up of the top line, especially between Lupul and Kessel, it means we’ve gone to the second line as JvR’s new home. The idea, of course, being that he will simply bump Kulemin out and play the left side. This makes sense right now.
However, the Leafs are probably not done re-tooling.
As Danny Gray put it the other day;
"I have a hard time with the fact that one of Mac, Kulie, or Kadri is likely on their way out. Why can’t we get rid of Lupul?"
I have a hard time with this fact as well. I guess it doesn’t HAVE to happen, but otherwise we’re left with a roster that looks something like this;
Then some mixture of Brown, Steckel, Lombardi, Kadri, Rosehill, Frattin, D’Amigo or something. I don’t know, man. It’s weird.
So, like Danny pointed out, something has to give here.
Before Burke unloads one of MacArthur, Kadri or Kulemin, I hope he’s exhausted ways to upgrade on Lupul and Bozak. We’re getting more value from MacArthur than Lupul, so it would be sad to see the former get tossed aside. Kessel was an absolute machine this past season, so I doubt Lupul’s replacement (especially if there was a good Bozak replacement thrown on that top line as well) would have awful numbers.
The Leafs don’t need more scoring, they need players on Kessel’s line who aren’t liabilities defensively.
Obviously I don’t have any firm answers as to what the Leafs will do to sort out what they have at forward, but I figured this morning it’s a pretty good talking point. What moves would you like to see made to give this lineup a little more structure?
Personally, I hope the potential combination of van Riemsdyk-Connolly-Kessel gets a look this season. A look that lasts more than a game or two.
Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.