Jon’s Opening Night Roster

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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
draft lottery.

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.

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The Forwards

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
faceoff/shootout specialist.

The D

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
season.

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.

The Goaltenders

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.

  • Lupul4Captain

    If we want to turn Lupul into any kind of pick this year, we have to play him. Like it or not. He can contribute marginally in the bottom 6 (potentially bottom 3). Flip him at the deadline for a pack of purple Gatorade.

  • Ultimate Sports'er

    Jon some astute selections on your part as leaf fans truly have to accept that this is a very poor leaf squad. But the tremendous upside is the high draft pick that the leafs will obtain for 2016. Perhaps all that executive brain power might just consider selecting a defenceman as both Phaneuf and Gardiner will be gone in a few years, hopefully sooner.

    Same goes with the goal tending as I’m certain the Bernier v.s. Reimer feud will be at high octane level shortly. But who cares as neither will be around when this team actually starts to become a playoff bound club.

    With that gaggle of management, a Guinness world record, pressure will indeed be on them as the Jays make the playoffs and have this city on FIRE and the Raptors will pass the 50 win mark this season.

    But intelligent leaf fans, such as yourself, no it ain’t an oxymoron, realize that this is going to be a long rebuild with all the washed up bums eventually disposed of.

    The owners might consider bringing in professional broadcasters to replace the wrestling commentating team of Bowen and Ralph. Yeah, yeah, they are folksy and clownish. But I prefer professional broadcasters.

  • Ultimate Sports'er

    OMG GET SOME RIGHT HANDERS!

    I think it is going to be like this. But I like your argument. The leafs need to trade for a young talent right handed dee. Someone to play with Gardiner and Rielly individually. I get people want to see them together – but I think it is best if they are not together. They need to have people with great talent that can play on the right side. Way to many left’ies. Polak and robidas are potatoes.

    JVR – Kadri – Lupul

    Matthias – Bozak– P.A

    Komarov – SPALING – Boyes

    Winnik – Holland – Grabner

    Panik, Arcobello

    Marincin – REILLY

    Brennan – PHANEUF

    Gardiner – Hunwick

    Scott Harrington (AHL), Robidas, Polak

    BERNIER

    REIMER

  • Ultimate Sports'er

    My dream dee would be

    Reilly – Adam Larrson

    Gardiner – Seth Jones

    Brennan – Phaneuf

    I seriously think brennan has a lot of potential. Just needs to be given more of a chance.

  • Ultimate Sports'er

    Again with Bernier??? I beleive that no matter what unless something goes crazy Bernier will be in the opener next week….

    Myself can’t figure out how you all think Benier is all that and its been said my times that the media has hyped Bernier up more than he deserves and after 2 years here and with his games so far this pre-season he has not proved anything and doesn’t deserve to lead this team as the starter or as the game night opener..recalled he lost it last year…where Reims has won if I recall correctly his opening games when he played….again an over payed so call Goalie that you all feel is more talented has falling short time and time again……..

    It should have been Reimes chance to lead this new team….but I doubt they will give him that shot with Bernier at twice the pay will not be spending time on the bench..not like they have Reims……..

  • Ultimate Sports'er

    Boy, anyone thinking this team is going to be better than last year is down right nuts. To me, that third line looks pretty good. Maybe not world shattering, but guys who have the potential to put up points given the ease of playing third line minutes.