“Going to miss some time”: The Jarnkrok injury is unfortunate but manageable for the Leafs
Photo credit:John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
By Jon Steitzer6 months ago
You never want to see injuries to anyone, especially a player who finally seemed to find the best linemate fit in his two months with the team, but here the Leafs are, adding Calle Jarnkrok to the growing number of the Leafs on their IR/LTIR.
Like David Alter reported in his tweet above, the full extent of the time missed by Jarnkrok won’t be known until the Leafs get some images of Jarnkrok’s groin, but it certainly sounds like the Leafs brief road trip will undoubtedly exclude him. And given that the Leafs have plenty of forward depth, they will be able to manage that.
One of the players that both prospered in his time on the second line and that fans at least want to see more of is Nick Robertson, and Jarnkrok’s absence certainly opens a door for him to return to the lineup on a more regular basis. The challenge for Robertson though is that Nick hasn’t earned the coach’s trust to play in all situations yet, and putting Robertson on a line with Tavares and Marner seems like it is asking Marner to do more defensive heavy lifting than you’d want to ask of a player on an 18 game point streak. While Robertson could find himself in the lineup on a nightly basis, it might continue to be a fourth line capacity with guest appearances on offensive zone faceoffs and entries. At home, with the last change it’s easier to get Robertson into these situations, and perhaps we see him as the Leafs’ go-to option at home, but not on the road.
The situation also leads to the Leafs not having to platoon Robertson with Malgin, and getting more Malgin in the lineup is also a plus. Malgin getting the opportunity to demonstrate that he can be an energetic fourth line option that is comfortable carrying the puck is something that needs to be established not just for stretches, but as a staple of his game if he can build an NHL career, and make some of the Leafs more expensive bottom six options expendable. Of course, Malgin isn’t likely to be up on the line with Tavares and Marner. Not that he’s a bad option (he might be, but we won’t debate that now.) It’s just that he hasn’t put himself in a position for that opportunity yet.
Personally, I’d love to see Pontus Holmberg get the opportunity as he has the most upside and at this point done the most to earn the opportunity to play in the top six. He might be a victim of his own success and the Leafs will probably continue to use him at center. I wouldn’t mind seeing him guest star on that line a couple of times a game to see what it looks like, but the need for centers is real and that’s where Holmberg should stay.
That leaves the last two options and the players somewhat closest to Jarnkrok in playing style. Kerfoot and Engvall haven’t had particularly memorable seasons, but are probably the two players most likely to get a look here. Kerfoot has a long resume of playing in the top six and especially on Tavares’ wing, but with his production being next to nil in those circumstances, he’s likely made the case for Engvall stronger as a result.
Engvall adding speed and defensive responsibility to Tavares’ line is a plus. His tendency to shoot into the goaltender is far more forgiving when Tavares could potentially be there to grab the rebounds as well. Engvall might actually work here and is seemingly the best option of the current Leafs’ group. After all while Jarnkrok has been looking good on the line, he wasn’t groundbreaking there either.
The injury also potentially opens up another roster spot for the Leafs and it will be interesting to see what Toronto does with it. Joey Anderson, Alex Steeves, and Adam Gaudette have all done well for the Marlies this year, and all looked like they had the potential to make the Leafs roster. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Kyle Dubas recall one of these players as well to see if they can unearth another Holmberg type option in the bottom six.
Finally, there is Wayne Simmonds. Simmonds was strong against Minnesota and is likely to remain in the Leafs platoon situation with Robertson and Malgin as well. He’s not really a factor to replace Jarnkrok on the second line, but he could see his usage increase in Jarnkrok’s absence too.
This seems like a long way of saying, an injury to a middle six forward on the Leafs sure does seem a lot more manageable than the flogging the blueline and goaltenders have taken this season. While having Jarnkrok back and building on his recent success as soon as possible would be nice, there is a lot of opportunity for the Leafs depth to establish themselves with an opening on the second line.
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