Nothing induces stress like trying to come up with a lineup
that makes sense for the Leafs. That’s because the team really isn’t that good.
I assume that every night Mike Babcock spends hours driving his car across the
border with a trunk full of Oxycontin in an attempt to get out building a
lineup that can’t compete in the NHL, but will be highly competitive in the
I like to think that my lineup card is a little less
conventional than what others might go with, but that’s largely unlike Mike Babcock;
I’ve had years to develop a loathing for many of these players, not just a
month and I’m sure you’ll notice who I’ve given up on.
van Riemsdyk – Kadri – Winnik
I’ve taken the radical approach and decided that van
Riemsdyk should have a center that can create plays for him and if the
opportunity arises, probably finish as well. Kadri and JVR are easily the two
most offensively gifted players the team has to offer, and playing them
together gives the Leafs what looks like an actual top line. Acknowledging that
van Riemsdyk isn’t great defensively, and that there is still a need to spread
offense around the other lines, Winnik rounds out the line with a sense of
responsibility and the wherewithal to chip in when possible.
Grabner – Holland – Boyes
I don’t know if Holland has truly earned his opportunity to
be a top six center, but I definitely want to see what the Leafs can get out of
him instead of handing over the responsibilities to someone else. Boyes is
probably the best offensive weapon not on the top line, and Grabner’s speed
adds a dangerous element to the line as well.
Matthias – Arcobello – Parenteau
Why not have three July free agents together on one big
happy line? All three of these players are decent supplemental offensive
players and could benefit from cushy offensive zone starts that make up for the
lack of speed here.
Komarov – Carrick – Bozak
I guess I’ll start with what sticks out the most and that’s Bozak
on the wing. It’s largely because he’s not a very good center. He’s good at
faceoffs, but not so much at controlling play or coming back into his own zone
in a timely manner. Carrick is a bit better at the defensive stuff, but can
still have Bozak there for faceoffs. Komarov and Carrick make this a bit of a
traditional energy fourth line, and Bozak is tagging along as the
Marincin – Rielly
Playing off of Babcock’s idea of not using Rielly and
Gardiner together (because apart you might have two passable pairings instead
of one good one and two probable sink holes) I’ve put Rielly with Marincin.
Rielly is good enough to play on either side, he’s smart, he’s fast, and he’s
getting a reliable partner who learned how to eat minutes on a bad team last
Harrington – Gardiner
Harrington is a very smart player who is probably the most
capable partner for Gardiner. Harrington can allow Gardiner to pinch and take
chances. Potentially there will be times in the game when you’ll want Gardiner
and Rielly on the ice at the same time, and Marincin and Harrington together
wouldn’t be a bad thing either, but as much as possible I’m trying to achieve
three non train wreck pairings.
Hunwick – Phaneuf
There’s a bit of acceptance here because these two have
played together all camp and it seems like it’s happening no matter what. I don’t
think it’s necessarily a bad thing, I just think anything that gets Phaneuf
away from doing the heavy lifting on the blueline is a good idea and if he’s
going up against second or third lines the majority of the time he’s going to
be more effective in his reduced role.
James Reimer is a really likeable guy, and someone you don’t
mind going to when Bernier is slumping, fatigued, etc, but Bernier does have
more natural talent as a goaltender (though by the numbers, not by much) and
has the contract, so let’s go with him as the number one guy.
The Press Box
Both Richard Panik, and Nick Spaling seem to fit this role,
but also seem capable of platooning in and out of any of the bottom nine roles
on the Leafs depending on who isn’t performing. I don’t really see this roles
as permanent 13th and 14th forward roles because there
are so many 13th and 14th forward type players already in
the Leafs lineup.
Roman Polak is my scratched defenseman because ideally I don’t
want to lose him on waivers for nothing. I think there’s a GM out there who
values him and he’s worth holding onto instead of waiving. Much like the
forwards there are plenty of options to sub him in for or just straight up
platoon him with Hunwick.
There are three names that are probably elephants in the
room at this point:
William Nylander, who I love with all my heart is someone I
would very much like to see on the Leafs so he can bring me some joy.
Unfortunately for him, I like him being affordable for another year and think
being away from this team will be more beneficial to him to start.
Stephane Robidas isn’t on this team. That’s because I’d
waive him. He’s not very good, should never have been signed, and the closest
thing to cap relief Toronto can get for him is recovering
$925k $950k by demoting him
to the Marlies.
Joffrey Lupul, like Robidas is a player who’s days as a
NHLer have passed him. Injuries have left Joffrey too slow to keep up, and his
ability to generate offence for himself left him a while back. He has no
redeeming defensive ability so you’d just look to shelter him on a lower line,
which arguably all players in the lineup are more capable than him.
I’d also like to expand out my reasoning for why Sam Carrick
is a Leaf when other options might make more sense. Simply, Sam Carrick has
topped out his ability in the AHL and it’s time to see what he can do in the
NHL. Introducing him into the NHL next year when potentially you are flooding
the team with inexperienced players like Nylander, Marner, Percy, Brown, etc.
might be a little much, so now is the time to ease in some of the young players
the Leafs are less concerned about becoming future stars.
I’m sure this has left you with opinions. Please have them
in the comment section.