Leafs roster looks set, but silly season approaches

It looks like we finally have our 2016-17 Maple Leafs roster. Or at least our Wednesday, October 12th, opening night roster. 

Yes, the once-waived have now cleared, Naz is back from injury, and the Leafs are practicing today with a lineup that’s likely what they’ll go with against the Senators in just over 48 hours.

From Kristen Shilton at TSN, who’ll be on the Leafs beat all season, here’s how things are looking right now:

FORWARDS

Hyman – Matthews – Nylander

Van Riemsdyk – Bozak – Marner

Michalek – Kadri – Komarov

Martin – Holland – Brown

Leivo


DEFENCEMEN

Rielly – Marincin

Hunwick – Zaitsev

Gardiner – Carrick

Corrado, Polak

And of course the two goaltenders are Andersen and Enroth.

Aside from Laich, the others who were waived yesterday have been sent to the Marlies, along with Soshnikov. It looks as though Laich will stay on with the big club to practice as an extra forward for a minute, but since he’s cleared, he can be sent down in the next thirty days (or ten games) without having to clear again. Prust stays on his pro tryout for now, but doesn’t look to factor into the actual lineup. 

There’s not much to get excited about on the blue-line, but we knew that going in. Overall it’s pretty bleak, but there’s obviously a lot of uncertainty, in a good way. As far as the scratches go, it’d be nice for Corrado to get into some games sooner than later because I really don’t think he’s any worse than sixth in this group, and let’s hope we don’t have a repeat of last year where Babcock leans on Hunwick like a drunk on a lamp post. 

Now, we have to mention who’s on waivers from around the league, because there are a few notable options out there, and of course a claim would shake up this roster a little.

First off, P-A Parenteau, a familiar face who put up 20 goals for the Leafs last season, has been waived by the Islanders. It’s sort of a surprising move, and with a cheap cap hit of 1.25-million he’s only a depth forward price-wise, but I’m guessing Toronto could have had him back in the fold for that number in the summer if they wanted, so it’s doubtful they put in a claim. 

Far more intriguing is Teemu Pulkkinen, who the Wings just sent to the waiver wire; a 24-year-old who’s put up an astronomical 65 goals in his last 117 AHL games. I suppose the Wings don’t see him as a fit in their “gritty” bottom six with rodents like Steve Ott, and now he’s available for the low price of his $812K cap hit. Keep in mind that the Leafs have top priority when it comes to waiver claims due to their last-place finish in 2015-16, so he’s theirs if they want him.

  • Christopher Graham Brown

    Astonished Detroit has let this guy hit the waiver wire. Leafs need to grab Pulkkinen, even if it means exposing Leivo or sending Brown down to the A. It would be stupid to let that talent get plucked by another team.

  • Harte of a Lion

    Pulkkinin impressed me every time I saw him with the Griffins. I’d give him a chance however Lievo will score 25 for someone, I still hope it’s the Leafs and I might not make that trade straight up…. hmmmmm Lievo for Pulkkinen?
    Lievo is a much more compete player, NHL ready however Pulkkinen is a pure sniper.

    Babcock knows Pulkkinen, if he is a fit for the Leafs, they will grab him.

  • Stan Smith

    I find the order you put the lines in interesting. Babcock has stated numerous times that Matthews will not be playing 1st line. While Kadri’s line doesn’t look like a #1 line, it does look more like a third line, it is the most experienced line. I wonder if that is the line that plays against the other team’s top line, and Bozak’s and Matthew’s line become 2A and 2B.

    On defence, is Gardiner going to play 3rd pairing minutes? I don’t think so, but is Carrick going to play 2nd pair minutes? I think you will see a lot of mixing up with the pairings, while Babcock figures out the best combinations.

    As for the goaltending, if Andersen keeps struggling I am sure Babcock will not hesitate in starting Enroth.

    Either way it still looks like the Leafs won’t have problems creating offence, but will have issues keeping the puck out of their net.

    • rfancey

      Up front I sort of just put them in the order of which lines I think are best, and I think the top three will be relatively close in TOI. As for the D pairings, I’m really not sure how they’ll pan out. Hunwick/Zaitsev is easily the weakest pair but Babcock played Hunwick 23 minutes a night last season, so who knows.

      • Stan Smith

        I agree that the top three lines could play similar minutes. Any of the top three lines could carry the offence on any given night. Hell, if Brown plays well, the 4th line could chip in some points too.

        A lot of people might find this hard to believe but Hunwick is actually a pretty good dman. Despite his size he is great at separating the puck from opposing forwards along the boards, and his positioning in his own end is usually spot on. He is not offensively gifted, however. The reason Rielly didn’t have good advanced numbers playing with him last season wasn’t his fault. Babcock obviously wanted Rielly to concentrate solely on his defensive game for most of his season. It wasn’t until after the deadline, Phaneuf was dealt, and Hunwick was hurt, that Babcock let Rielly off his offensive leash, and let him play his usual game. Now Babcock has Hunwick paired with Zaitsev for exactly the same reason.

      • Harte of a Lion

        I see both Hunwick and Polak as veteran presence who will be rotated in and out of the lineup depending how Zaitsev adjusts to the league and Carrick /Corrado develop. The idea would be that by February the new kids are playing well and have developed chemistry on defence with Marincin Riley and Gardiner.
        IMO, the pairings will develop as follows no matter who starts with whom…
        Reilly/Corrado
        Gardiner/Carrick
        Marincin/Zaitsev
        The Gardiner/Carrick pairing might be the most exciting on the offensive side of the puck however if they play against the oppositions 2nd, 3rd pairings/lines they could be dominant. Corrado has more hockey IQ than most give him credit for and once Reilly gets comfortable with both playing on his proper side and finds chemistry with Frankie, I see them as the top shutdown pair with a large offensive upside.
        Marincin and Zaitsev play the easiest minutes until The Russian adjusts.
        Zaitsev has the raw talent to move up to the top 4 next year.

        • The Russian Rocket

          I agree with your analysis of Hunwick and Polak but since Zaitsev was playing heavy minutes for Team Russia at the world cup, there’s no doubt he’ll work his way into the top pair with Rielly. Corrado is underrated but Zaitsev is the guy in my opinion.

          • LukeDaDrifter

            It is starting to look like Babcock is setting his defensive lineup similar to the way he like his forward lines. One top three defenceman on each of the defensive pairing. I expect him to continually tweak the lineups until he feels he is getting the most bang for his buck. I also expect early on, he will work on stopping other teams from scoring. Babcock is somewhat content to go into the last 10 minutes of the game with a chance to win. I think the fans also like this style of play.

  • Brent Wisken

    Why would Prust agree to keep practicing with the team if he hasn’t been given a contract and is not on the roster? What’s in it for him? Something seems a bit strange.

    • Stan Smith

      I can only think of two reasons. One is he doesn’t have a better offer, and is willing to keep working with the team in the hopes of getting one, or there is some kind of a deal coming down, freeing up a roster spot for him.

  • Glen

    Some of you will want to beat me on the head for this comment and maybe I deserve it, but I don’t see Morgan R. as a top pairing dman on a good team. To me he seems to lose too many battles for the puck in his own end and often gets walked around. He is good on offence but not on defence.

    • Stan Smith

      That same issue didn’t stop Eric Karlsson from winning a Norris Trophy. I guess if a Dman can score, and carry the play, they do get some leeway on the defensive side of things. It is obvious Babcock felt he needed work on his defensive game last season. That was why he teamed him with Hunwick, and kept him away from the offensive side of the game for most of the season.

    • Tigon

      You also have to remember Rielly is the youngest of the 8 defensemen on the blue line on a team that has no one to take the pressure off him. And I don’t mean veteran presence take the pressure, I mean Trouba playing behind Buff and Myers, Seth Jones behind Josi and Weber. Parayko has J-Bo, Shattenkirk, Pietrangelo even Gunnarsson for the shutdown and PK. A very dominate Ekblad still had Campbell, Kulikov and Gudbranson (our Polak) but actual usage reflected that.

      Rielly had Hunwick and Polak….. He also had Phanuef at one point but he also had no support, the same problem Rielly has/had (and Kessel had). And Gardiner I exclude because he is in the same boat as Rielly.

      Funny how people would say someone like Trouba is a top pair d-man yet suggest Rielly isn’t. Look at their usage and tell me again who is actually performing better given their usage and team. I also don’t see much evidence that suggests Rielly “often gets walked around”.

      • The Russian Rocket

        This is bang on. Rielly has no support at all. He hasn’t even had a decent D partner. I’m shocked that they’re putting Marincin with him. There’s no way Marincin is a top pairing D which means Rielly has to drag around another anchor this season (albeit a better anchor than Hunwick). I hope they find him someone soon. It would be terrible to see him get the Kessel or Sundin treatment for another 5 years (ie: no supporting cast)

        • LukeDaDrifter

          One is forced to play the hand you are dealt. With only three decent defencemen, Babcock’s strategy is to spread them over three lines for balance. Other coaches like to play the top two together. Unfortunately putting two of them together leaves a big hole to be exploited, in one of the other pairings. Expect the Leafs to wait for one of our prospects to develop into NHL caliber. There is also the possibility of a trade, but the asking price for a top for defenceman is unreasonable. Look what the Oilers had to pay for one. The Jets are looking to cash in big-time as well.These guys are only slightly above average defenders. If you are looking for elite quality those guys are only ever traded for elite quality coming back. Nielson looked close. Parts of his game are NHL ready. The Leafs likely did the right thing in placing him on the Marlies to work on the rest. When a forward makes a mistake there are usually at least a couple of guys back to attempt a recovery. When a defenceman makes a mistake it is typically,…. “Wham – Bam – Thank You Ma’am”