Justin’s Opening Night Lineup

justinslineup

Unlike my colleagues, I see an untapped potential with the talent the Leafs have assembled. I really do. It just requires someone forward-thinking enough to put the pieces together the right way. So that’s what I did.

Just like the juggalos that he used in his header imagine, Bobby’s a joker if he thinks this team has untapped potential. An NHL lineup gutted of anything resembling elite talent and patched together with bit players and PTOs, this Leafs team isn’t going to surprise and overwhelm anyone. Though, #nice call in dressing Rich Clune. 

But really, let me tell you what Toronto’s lineup is going to look like. This group might be a porta-potty fire, but as my colleagues like to tell me, my takes are ice cold. 

Please click past the jump and see if Tyler Bozak is a number one centre…

The Lineup

James van Riemsdyk – Nazem Kadri – P.A. Parenteau

Joffrey Lupul – Tyler Bozak – Michael Grabner

Daniel Winnik – Peter Holland – Shawn Matthias

Leo Komarov – Nick Spaling – Brad Boyes


Morgan Rielly – Dion Phaneuf

Jake Gardiner – Martin Marincin

Matt Hunwick – Roman Polak


Jonathan Bernier

James Reimer


Extras: Zack Hyman, Richard Panik, Stephane Robidas

The Explanation

James van Riemsdyk – Nazem Kadri – P.A. Parenteau

Haha, no. My takes might be chilly, but even I’m done with the “Tyler Bozak is a Number One Centre” experiment. Now more than ever, it’s important to give Nazem Kadri a shot at being a top line player and line him up with the team’s most talented wingers. James van Riemsdyk certainly fits that bill, and P.A. Parenteau is the best option on the right side for now – though I imagine all of Toronto’s right wingers will find themselves on the first line at some point.

An argument can be made that with a roster this weak, the offence should be spread out. I say you need to ride or die with Kadri and JVR. “But what if Kadri puts up 65 points and he demands a significant pay raise in the summer?” Pay the man.

Joffrey Lupul – Tyler Bozak – Michael Grabner

I was quick to knock him off the top line, but I’m not some kind of idiot that would force Bozak onto the wing or demote him altogether. 

kermit

In what’s going to be a throw-away year anyways, I start Lupul and Bozak on the second line and give them the speedy newcomer Michael Grabner to work with. I hope that they click and resemble something similar to top six contributors, and if they don’t I replace them with players from the third or fourth lines who have earned the right to take on greater responsibility – though, there’s no guarantee anyone is going to step up.

And hey, who knows? Maybe Bozak and Lupul go on a little run and suddenly garner interest from other teams? One can dream. 

Daniel Winnik – Peter Holland – Shawn Matthias

This is a line that could be very good – three big guys not devoid of offensive talents, able to get in deep and cycle the puck in the offensive zone, wearing down opposition defenders and potting a few goals here and there in the process.

I could actually see this line working out very well. On one hand, they could form a very responsible and effective third line. On the other, they could become even more effective than the Lupul-Bozak-Grabner line above, and split time evenly with them as lines 2A and 2B.

Leo Komarov – Nick Spaling – Brad Boyes

The energy line – and not your granddaddy’s goons, either. Hopefully in the right system, you can get these guys on the ice for 10 minutes a night and they won’t allow many goals against. Boyes is probably too good to be playing this low, but like I said early, all of the Leafs’ right wingers will be moving up and down the lineup. At worst, he provides a nice offensive pop that could surprise opposing fourth lines.

Morgan Rielly – Dion Phaneuf

Dion Phaneuf on the third pairing? Are you kidding me, Cat?

No, Dion Phaneuf is still a top pairing defenceman on my Toronto Maple Leafs, and he’ll team up with new top pairing defenceman Morgan Rielly. Phaneuf is not the perfect blueliner – far from it, in fact – but he’s still a capable one and doesn’t need to be sheltered. I’m all for reducing his minutes and more evenly balancing the ice time between the first and second pairing, but dropping your multi-million dollar captain to the third pairing is not an option.

As for Rielly, I’m expecting big things this year. Career highs in goals and assists, good possession numbers, and a very clear leap forward in development. Rielly is the Leafs’ top defenceman now and could remain so for the next decade – he might as well assert himself now.

Jake Gardiner – Martin Marincin

I see Rielly and Gardiner as two similar players – offence-first defenders with excellent wheels. There’s a lot of creativity there, and if you pair them together, that means that only one of them can have the puck. I’d rather spread that skill out on the blueline, and pair Gardiner up with Marincin on the second pairing. As much as Rielly and Gardiner have looked good together at times, I don’t think they should be playing with each other unless on the powerplay. 

Matt Hunwick – Roman Polak

I can’t quite explain it, but I have a soft spot for Roman Polak. It brings me great joy to watch such a massive man skate so well; the issue is, he just never seems to do anything with that speed and strength. I still think he’s capable of playing in the NHL, but this third pairing of Hunwick and Polak should see no more than 15 minutes a night, and let the top two pairings split the rest. This pairing should be sheltered.

Jonathan Bernier and James Reimer

I’m with Babcock on this one… whoever’s hot gets the net. I think that both of these guys are capable of being league average goaltenders or better, but I think Bernier is just slightly more advanced and will get the opening night start. From then on, play them every other game for all I care.

The Extras

Zack Hyman and Richard Panik are, in my opinion, good enough to play smaller roles for an NHL team. They’re also the right kind of ‘young guys’ to be in and out of an NHL lineup, as there’s not a lot of untapped potential here that’s being hurt by not getting regular ice time. They’ll slide into the lineup from time to time to give other players a rest or fill in for an injury. I could see both of them playing ahead of guys like Komarov and Spaling by season’s end. 

As for Robidas, I just don’t see the point in sending him to the Marlies. The Leafs have plenty of cap space when you factor in Nathan Horton’s LTIR cushion, and I’m not convinced that Toronto’s top defensive prospects – Scott Harrington and Stuart Percy, specifically – are ready for top four roles in the NHL. I’d rather see them begin the season playing a ton of minutes in the AHL and have Robidas act as the sacrificial press box fodder. If there’s an injury, I’m totally fine with calling up one of these young players and moving them into the lineup ahead of Robidas as well.

  • MatsSundin#13

    Favorite lineup so far! I agree with putting Lupul and Bozie together as teams scouting them for trade value can get looks at both of them with one shift (maybe we trade both of them as a package deal?). Also really like the reasoning behind the d-pairings. Hope Reimer and Bernier both play to their full potential and allow us to settle the debate for once.