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Coming up with a game plan for Jarnkrok’s absence from the Leafs

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Photo credit:Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Jon Steitzer
30 days ago
I guess if there is a right time to put one of your more consistent players on the week-to-week injured reserve it is right before the All-Star break. Not only does it reduce the number of games the Maple Leafs will play without Calle Jarnkrok but it gives Sheldon Keefe and Brad Treliving a bit more time to best assess what the Leafs roster could use. It’s not known if the Leafs will also be dealing with Bobby McMann being absent when games start up again but the Leafs can certainly plan for either contingency.
If we are to steer right into recency bias the Leafs second line seems sorted out. Tavares scored again and all is right in the world there, and Saturday’s game against the Jets was one of the more engaged outings for Tyler Bertuzzi this season as well. Throw in the fact that Nylander had a ridiculous number of chances and that line should remain intact.
The top line seems like it might warrant a shuffle as Knies wasn’t at his best on the top unit. Given that Holmberg was gelling there for a while, it might be better to have him return to that situation.
That makes the biggest challenge for the Leafs is figuring out how to get the most out of the bottom six with Jarnkrok’s absence, especially since he is usually the most stabilizing presence for that group. While being without Jarnkrok is unfortunate it does give the Leafs an opportunity to try some new things in advance of the deadline and understand if there are any needs that can be addressed prior to the trade deadline on that front as well.
There are some realities that need to be dealt with in the bottom six beyond Calle Jarnkrok’s absence and the first one is that David Kampf isn’t the player he was signed to be. Coming back from the break with new linemates might be the best option for him.
Noah Gregor’s speed in the bottom six is a plus and he’s been a solid penalty killer. Perhaps he also needs a divorce from Kampf.
And as for Ryan Reaves, a nice night in Toronto that made everyone eat crow is fun but not something that can be expected on a nightly basis. Using Reaves as the 13th forward seems like the more reasonable course of action.
If McMann stays out and the Leafs should be trying to take their time in this regard, it seems far more worthwhile to explore the options the Leafs have with the Marlies and that should probably start with Alex Steeves as an option.
What I’d suggest makes sense for the Leafs is putting Kampf with Knies and Steeves. Getting Knies on track defensively is going to important for the Leafs in the long run and a bottom six assignment with Kampf gets him working towards that. Steeves adds someone who has a two-way play background at the AHL level but doesn’t turn the line into an offensive blackhole either. The line seems more capable of situations beyond just matching against another fourth line and can help tap into what the Leafs have liked about Kampf in the past.
That leaves Domi with Gregor and Robertson and there is some real fun potential on that line. If the Leafs truly wanted to get weird with it, they could even try it with Gregor at centre. Adding more speed to a run and gun duo could be fun and while Gregor isn’t quite Jarnkrok, he at least serves as somewhat of a way to keep Domi and Robertson in check defensively as well.
Jarnkrok’s absence means that there are potentially some Leafs that could see an increase in icetime. The safe bet is that Sheldon Keefe is going to try and get David Kampf out there more frequently and from a team defence perspective that is fair. What is also worth noting is that although playing near the bottom of the roster and not necessarily players that would get regular shifts on the top line, both Domi and Robertson are worth experimenting with in the top six as well when they can grab offensive shifts with Matthews.
Arun Srinivasan recently wrote about how the Leafs depend on the consistent play of Jarnkrok and can use him now more than ever , so it’s an unfortuante coincidence that the Leafs are now planning for a stretch without him. The reality is the Leafs have been very fortunate this year when it comes to injuries to their forwards and while Jarnkrok will be missed, it presents a great opportunity for a number of players to show their worth.

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