What does Jay McClement signing do for Leafs centremen?

Tyler Bozak. Mikhail Grabovski. Tim Connolly. David Steckel. Jay McClement. Quick, which of these is not like the others?

Four of those players will be Toronto Maple Leafs next season. One will indubitably not. If any hockey mathematics are to be trusted, it’s that a team can’t have five guys playing centre with only four spots available.

The big thing I look at when analyzing this trade is “well, is it a good signing?” There is no doubt in my mind that Jay McClement is a very competent hockey player who can play excellent in the defensive end. Soaking up contracts of good hockey players isn’t an issue. Then next question you run into is “where are you going to play?”

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And, well, that’s the issue isn’t it? As far as I saw it, the Leafs had four centremen locked up for the next season and it wasn’t much of a positional issue. Tyler Bozak isn’t terrifically strong offensively or defensively, but stick him between Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul and he wouldn’t hamper their offensive totals. David Steckel was the tough minutes guy, Tim Connolly was a third liner, as disappointing as he was, and Mikhail Grabovski is Mikhail Grabovski—that second line centre position is qucikly becoming one of the most important ones in hockey.

Other than an upgrade for Bozak, perhaps the Leafs didn’t need a centreman. McClement isn’t offensively capable enough to provide an upgrade for Bozak, but from a depth perspective, he’s very very good. Good enough to compete with Connolly for depth minutes.

Then you see this:

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The coaching staff wanted an extra body in the middle position in a depth role. Unfortunately, that means the exit of either Connolly or Bozak, unless the team is intent on McClement replacing Steckel, who has a year, and $1.1M, left on a pretty good deal.

So this leaves the Leafs with the option of moving a centreman to the winger spot or getting rid of one. Considering a backlog on depth wingers that includes Matt Lombardi, Mike Brown, Leo Komarov, Matt Frattin, Nazem Kadri and even Carter Ashton perhaps, there just isn’t enough room for all the forwards listed above. Is there another deal in the works? The Leafs still need to a] get rid of forwards and b] improve at the #1 centre position. The McClement signing doesn’t help that, but it does get a good player to the Leafs on a good deal.

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  • Nice pickup for Burke. However this addition will have very little impact without improved goaltending and defensive zone play. Burke needs to find another top 4 defender and a top 20 goalie in order to accomplish this. Despite Lombardi’s speed he is not physical enough for a bottom 6 role. Kulemin and Frattin are better candidates to play on the third line with McClement. Possibly Orr gets one last opportunity in T.O. to find minutes on the fourth line with Steckel and Brown. Bozak needs a breakout season or the Leafs miss the playoffs again.

  • Assuming McClement is the very good defensive C that some Blues and Avs fans describe, I’d be hopeful for the following type of lineup template:

    Lupul – Bozak – Kessel

    Van R. – Grabo – Mac (not sure who would play the right side here – but the line should be able to play well against tough competition)

    Steckle – McClement – Kulemin (tough minutes)

    Kadri – Connolly – Frattin (sheltered scoring)

    Now it may be that Komorov or Colborne or a rejuvinated Lombardi come in and win a job on the tough minute or sheltered scoring line, but hey – that would create a nice little problem to have.

    • Somehow you missed Brown. Bodies could be moved out and of course the rules allow each team to carry a couple of healthy scratches. This said, Steckel and McClement will center there own lines. Kadri is not on the team if he is sitting in the press box and there is no spot for him in the top six so he stays with the Marlies unless one of Lombardi or Connolly is traded or there is an injury.


      Van R-Grabovski-Mac



      Komarov in the press box.

      Kadri with the Marlies