Cat’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.” – Jonathan Hockey, aka Jon Steitzer

Yesterday, we kicked off what’s probably going to be the most controversial and inflammatory series we’ve done all off-season: attempting to predict the team’s lines for the 2015-2016 season. 

I’m not even going to get into the fact that you should all be ashamed of yourselves for getting so upset over what’s basically a slight variance on the four interchangeable lines that the Leafs will roll next year. The good news, of course, is that the fourth line isn’t going to have Colton Orr or someone like Brandon Bollig; even if the Leafs opt to put Shawn Matthias, Mark Arcobello, or Nick Spaling in the bottom six, all three have proven that they’re capable of putting up 15-20 goals in a single season. The bad news is still that the team may be icing four good third lines next year, but hey – rebuilds suck. In order for things to get better, the Leafs have to ice rosters like this for a bit. 

I’m sorry, too. 

The Lineup

Toronto Maple Leafs Depth Chart – 2015
STARTER 2ND 3RD 4TH
LW Nick Spaling P.A. Parenteau Michael Grabner Joffrey Lupul
C Nazem Kadri Peter Holland Mark Arcobello Sam Carrick
RW James van Riemsdyk Tyler Bozak Daniel Winnik Leo Komarov
D #1 Scott Harrington Martin Marincin Matt Hunwick
D #2 Morgan Rielly Jake Gardiner Dion Phaneuf
G Jonathan Bernier James Reimer

The Explanations

Spaling – Kadri – JVR

Nazem Kadri, if the team has any intention of investing in him as a future asset for the team, needs to be the top line centre. That’s just how it has to happen. 

In Arizona, there’s little chance that Dylan Strome (who we could assume is the team’s future centre asset) will spend this year in a top line centre role; that’s because he’s eighteen, still needs work on his skating, and has never played in an NHL game before. Kadri’s been around; give him the top line and let it happen. Supplement him with the offensive force that is JVR (who’s actually treating pre-season like the audition to keep his job that it almost certainly is) and a reasonably responsible Spaling, and that’s a top line that still scores but knows how to play in all three zones. 

Parenteau – Holland – Bozak

Like with Kadri, the Leafs need to be playing Peter Holland like they trust him moving forward; operating under the assumption that Bozak is not long for Toronto, pushing Holland out to the wing is adding an extra step to his development that you just don’t need. 

We’ve seen in the past that Bozak can produce offense, if he has a bit of trouble generating it at times. He really needs to be playing on the wing; that’s just smarter for the Leafs overall. Parenteau gives this line experience and a well-balanced game to keep Holland and Bozak from leading each other around like a couple of blind mice. 

Winnik – Arcobello – Grabner

Dashboard 1 (1)

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I was a fan of Arcobello in Edmonton, I liked what he did in Pittsburgh, and he certainly managed to generate offense on a godawful Coyotes roster last year; in just 27 games, he had nine goals and played with pretty much everyone on the team. Add in a similarly useful (if underrated) Daniel Winnik and the speed of Michael Grabner, and that’s honestly a third line that can take extra minutes on special teams and help balance out the growing pains Holland is undoubtedly going to experience. 

Komarov – Carrick – Lupul

Carrick, like Holland, needs more responsibility. I have Lupul in the fourth line wing because he’s been getting injured more frequently, and Komarov is truly a bottom six supplementary player – but honestly, the Leafs lines this year might as well be rolled. I have this one fourth, but that doesn’t mean they’ll get six minutes a night. 

Harrington – Rielly

This one was easy; Rielly gets the responsibility, Harrington gets the growing room (but will likely have at least one of Spaling, Winnik, or Parenteau playing in front of him to keep him from completely getting snowed under). Next. 

Gardiner – Marincin

This line is probably the only one that I think is perfect for any NHL roster; if you have a second pairing of Jake Gardiner and Martin Marincin, you’re in good shape. 

Hunwick – Phaneuf

If Hunwick ends up doing well, this works in his favor. If he struggles, he’s not eating up minutes. Phaneuf serves in the role that a player like Robyn Regehr, Andrew Ference, or Derek Morris has in the past; stabilizes a player who isn’t used to consistent NHL ice time without dragging them into heavier minutes than they need. Plus, Phaneuf is actually good, so you can almost roll your blue line as well. 

Extra skaters: Andrew Campbell, Roman Polak, Richard Panik, Shawn Matthias

Having Matthias as an extra skater doesn’t necessarily mean he doesn’t fit in the lineup, I just think he adds a little less than everyone else out there. Luckily, though, he’s got enough talent that you can put him into the lineup on any line in a pinch and he won’t just get completely blown away. Having him and Richard Panik as your extra skaters is a *huge* upgrade on having a guy like Colton Orr, Frazer McLaren, or Tom Sestito filling in when Lupul inevitably gets hurt. 

The defense is a mess. That’s all I’ll say. I’m pretending Robidas has vanished into the ether for now, but realistically he could fill Hunwick’s role. Not ideal, but certainly realistic. 

I’m not going to explain the goalies; if you want to read what I think about Reimer this year, click here, and if you want to know what I think about Bernier, click here. I’m going to do a more in-depth post on the team’s goaltending depth chart for all of you soon, anyway, so this would just be wasting words.