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Photo Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

What The Leafs Lines Could Look Like This Season

With training camp just around the corner, it’s time to take a look at the Leafs, and what they might look like. After all, the lines and how they are assembled are one of the most important things with a team. The way the Leafs spread out their offense was what made their offense such a lethal weapon last season. When you have seven players above 40 points on three different lines, it makes it nearly impossible to contain all three lines.

With the added (albeit, declining) offense of Patrick Marleau, and the uncertainty of the Leafs fringe wingers, the lineup could have even more firepower, so the lines become all the more important this season. Here are a few possibilities for the lineups the Leafs might (or should) explore.

Lineup 1: Copy and Paste

Zach Hyman – Auston Matthews – William Nylander

James van Riemsdyk – Tyler Bozak – Mitch Marner

Leo Komarov – Nazem Kadri – Connor Brown

Patrick Marleau – Miro Aaltonen – Kasperi Kapanen

Seem familiar? Well, it should be. The reason why this is called the “copy and paste” lineup is because it’s the exact same lineup, but swap Martin for Marleau, and Boyle for Aaltonen, whose emerged as a dark horse contender for the fourth line centre role. Essentially, run the team like last year, except another scoring line to make it even more difficult on opponents.

Pros: The key to this lineup is depth. This will allow the team to run four scoring lines, with a player who scored at least 27 goals on each line. Not only will this keep the chemistry that was built during the late season stretch and the playoff run, but it will also give Kapanen an actual offensive player to play with, and generate some more offense.

Cons: First off, this ain’t happening. Martin isn’t in the lineup, and you know how much Babs loves him. Also, you run the risk of driving down Marleau’s offense a lot this season.

Likeliness: Depends on how comfortable Babcock was with the lines last year. Obviously adding a top nine forward to the group means that Babcock is considering shaking up the lines, so he’s probably going to find a way to bring Marleau up. Also, Martin is out of the lineup, which is a no-no for Babs.

Lineup 2: Copy and Paste 2

Patrick Marleau – Auston Matthews – William Nylander

James van Riemsdyk – Tyler Bozak – Mitch Marner

Leo Komarov – Nazem Kadri – Connor Brown

Zach Hyman – Miro Aaltonen – Kasperi Kapanen

Same as lineup #1, but swap Marleau and Hyman.

Pros: This lineup puts more effort into optimizing Marleau’s offense this season, by playing him with Matthews and Nylander, two of the best offensive tools on the team. Hyman works as a defensive forward on the fourth line to help out the inexperienced Aaltonen and Kapanen.

Cons: The first line has some defensive flaws now, as they remove their best defensive forward on that line to play a minimized role on the fourth line. Not only will this be an ineffective use of Hyman, but it will also leave the Leafs with two lines that need to be sheltered with very little defensive help.

Probability: Babcock like his Hyman with his Matthews, and he still doesn’t have Martin, so this is also unlikely.

Lineup 3: Optimization

Zach Hyman – Auston Matthews – William Nylander

James van Riemsdyk – Tyler Bozak – Mitch Marner

Patrick Marleau – Nazem Kadri – Connor Brown

Josh Leivo – Leo Komarov – Kasperi Kapanen

This is probably the best way the Leafs could run their four lines this year. Leave the first two lines the way they were, because both were excellent in their roles, and continue to deploy Kadri’s line as a shutdown line. Demote Leo to the fourth line centre role, who might be the best player suited for that role on the team, considering his elite shot suppression abilities, and then have Leivo and Kapanen between them to add more offense to the lineup.

Pros: This is probably the best mix of offense and defense on every line, except for the second line, which will be sheltered anyway. This also guarantees that Brown, Marleau, and Hyman get top 9 roles, which everyone seemed to have trouble with arranging during the offseason.

Cons: My biggest concern with this set up is using the third line as a shutdown line. While I have no problems with Kadri’s defensive game, I think a lot of it thrives off of his ability to drive play, not so much suppress shots, which seems to be more of a Komarov thing. Taking Uncle Leo off of there may cause some issues, enough that might not make up for the problems it solves on the fourth line.

Probability: Unlikely. Babcock seems to like Komarov and Kadri as a duo, so it seems unlikely that he’d separate them. And again, there’s a lack of a Matt Martin.

Lineup 4: Bab’s Lines

Zach Hyman – Auston Matthews – William Nylander

James van Riemsdyk – Tyler Bozak – Mitch Marner

Patrick Marleau – Nazem Kadri – Leo Komarov

Matt Martin/Josh Leivo – Miro Aaltonen/Dominic Moore – Connor Brown

Using the lines that Babcock has been running in the preseason thus far, it seems like this is probably what we’ll see this season, or at least at the start. Babcock’s been running a Leivo-Aaltonen-Brown line that has some good potential, so it could be possible that we see that on opening day. He also had a Martin-Moore-Fehr line in the same game, so it’s hard to say. We’ll probably see a combination of the two on opening day, and then a few of them rotate in on a regular basis throughout the season.

Pros: He doesn’t touch the top six, and he inserts Marleau onto the third line with Kadri and Komarov, which could work well for Marleau. Also, I really like the potential for a Leivo-Aaltonen-Brown fourth line.

Cons: I feel like you could make better use of Connor Brown than on the fourth line, but we’ll probably see a lot more movement throughout the lineup than we did last year. Also, a Martin-Moore combo might not turn out well.

Probability: This is probably the most likely of the combinations, since it’s what Babcock has been running himself. He ran them in practice earlier today, despite the 6-2 and 5-2 losses to the Sens, so he doesn’t seem to be letting the results of a preseason game dictate how he runs his lines, but we’ll see how it shapes up over the next couple of weeks.

  • Matmarwill

    How’s about jvr gets traded, at the end of training camp, for a top four rhd on an expiring contract, then the lines are:

    Hyman+Matthews+Nylander
    Marleau+Bozak+Marner
    Komorov+Kadri+Brown
    Martin/Leivo+Moore+Kapanen

  • Skill2Envy

    It will be a shame if Brown gets bumped to the 4th line. I don’t have the #stats to back it up but I suspect the gap between Komarov and Brown defensively isn’t that big but the offensive gap is much greater. I would rather Brown play with Marleau and Kadri while Komarov gets his 5-on-5 time on the fourth line. I just don’t see any benefit to Brown playing with guys where he has to be the only offensive catalyst.

    Though not as good, Kadri and Brown both aren’t afraid to go to the net and corners like Komarov. I suspect this is why Babcock has Komarov on that line to do the grunt work.