It’s over! The offseason is finally over! Finally, we can stop over-analyzing every transaction Leafs management does or doesn’t make and… start over-analyzing every puck decision the players make! Or something like that.
Anyway, the pre-season officially kicks off today in slightly unusual fashion, as the Battle of Ontario is taken to Nova Scotia. The Leafs will take on the Ottawa Senators in Halifax this evening; here’s how it breaks down.
Paul Hendrick recently posted the following as the Leafs’ projected lines for tonight:
Kerby Rychel – Nazem Kadri – Connor Brown
Colin Greening – Brooks Laich – Mitch Marner
Andreas Johnsson – Byron Froese – Kasperi Kapanen
Brandon Prust – Marc-Andre Cliche – Trevor Moore
Jake Gardiner – Frank Corrado
Matt Hunwick – Andrew Nielsen
Andrew Campbell – Raman Hrabarenka
Antoine Bibeau is expected to start in goal with Kasimir Kaskisuo backing him up. Overall, this isn’t an overly surprising roster; the Leafs won’t be dressing all of their roster locks, not to mention that all of the World Cup Players (Zaitsev, Polak, Michalek, van Riemsdyk, Rielly, Matthews, Komarov, Enroth, Andersen), have all been given the east coast weekend off.
The Senators don’t have their lines out just yet, but they do have their roster available. So, without sorting them, here is who you could expect to dress today:
Forwards: Tom Pyatt, Nick Paul, Mike Blunden, Chad Nehring, Matt Puempel, Casey Bailey, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Francis Perron, Logan Brown, Zack Stortini, Phil Varone, Max McCormick.
Defencemen: Chris Wideman, Michael Kostka, Andreas Englund, Guillaume Lepine, Thomas Chabot, Chris Carlisle, Mark Borowiecki.
Goaltenders: Andrew Hammond, Chris Driedger
This game has been described by Ottawa reporters as one that’s seen as crucial for bubble players, hence the near-entire lack of regular roster talent. I’d wager that with that in mind, Driedger will get the start in goal.
What To Watch For
Listen, this should be about the preseason game ahead of us, but given the topical nature of the situation and the fact that involves a former Leaf, I’d like to talk about what happened with Clarke MacArthur yesterday.
Patrick Sieloff, a 22-year-old defensive prospect that the Senators recently acquired in exchange for Alex Chiasson, attempted to show that he had a physical element to his game by delivering a punishing check to MacArthur. The way it unfolded was disastrous, though, as Sieloff leaped into his hit, caught MacArthur’s turned head with his elbow, and sent him straight into the glass.
This was MacArthur’s first camp since recovering from his third concussion in a span of a year and a half, and it became obvious within seconds that he had suffered another one. Bobby Ryan came to his defence, beating up Sieloff while screaming all sorts of nasty things at him for catching a long-time, at-risk teammate in a vulnerable position, and other veterans all but chased him into the dressing room afterwards.
The thing about this situation is that Sieloff is not a noted goon and in a lot of ways, what happened is the product of a training camp environment. Teams make it clear to their bubble players that if they don’t have the talent to make the team, the best way to prove their salt is to “battle”, be it with good hustle or a physical presence.
That often leaves players in a position where they feel they have to get rowdy to get noticed. This situation is different due to MacArthur’s developed sensitivity to impact, but NHL camps frequently get heated because young players are crossing lines with hits in an effort to impress. While it’s going away with the position, young aspiring enforcers picking fights with veterans was par for the course a few years ago. Hell, Sieloff’s former Calgary Flames are known to devote parts of camp to fighting lessons.
Teams need to emphasize skill first in these camps, for the sake of their players. The game is evolving and attempting to injure your future teammates in an effort to show the coaching staff that you’re willing to battle for them later seems incredibly backwards. Toughness should be a known quality that doesn’t need to be expressed through a camp, and it shouldn’t be something that you need to use against your own organization to prove yourself.
Hopefully, this isn’t the end of the road for MacArthur, but realistically, it just might be. It also could be the end for Sieloff, who has just 1 NHL game under his belt, if he can’t reverse the Enemy #1 reputation he surely has in the locker room right now. It’s a sad and avoidable sight for both sides.
Anyway, enough about that; let’s get ourselves excited about watching the Leafs tonight. Puck drop is at 7:00 PM in Halifax, which means the game will start at 6:00 PM here. You can catch the game on TSN, and we’ll keep you up to date on Twitter and on the site.