Tavares is now a winger, Sandin is out, and Samsonov starts: Leafs morning skate notes

Photo credit:Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Jon Steitzer
1 year ago
It’s been a while since the Leafs have had a full practice. Ryan O’Reilly and Noel Acciari are heading into their third game with the Leafs and they still haven’t seen much more than optional morning skates.
Most of the updates this morning came directly from Sheldon Keefe, so we’ll break down what he said today:
This is the big takeaway from Keefe’s availability today. He sees Ryan O’Reilly as the Leafs second line center and John Tavares is going to be the second line left wing. As someone who has frequently banged the drum of Tavares being moved to wing when a second line center could be brought in, I have to say this doesn’t seem like a good idea.
Fully acknowledging that every situation is different, the Blues tried to do the same thing with Ryan O’Reilly when he arrived in St. Louis, and felt it was best to give him the best offensive linemates they could putting him with Tarasenko, and moving Brayden Schenn to the wing to top load their top six. It went well, but it wasn’t until Craig Berube came in and put Ryan O’Reilly with a capable two way player like David Perron, and added a bit more of an all situations element to the line that they thrived. There is also something to the Tavares-O’Reilly-Marner line that is lacking, and that is a puck carrier. There might be a benefit in putting Nylander back to the second line to swiftly move the puck up the ice that could be beneficial, and we know that Marner will be just fine with Matthews.
Is it too early to completely poo-poo this idea? Absolutely. They haven’t even practiced together. I’m just going to say that history makes it seem like this arrangement isn’t as locked in as Keefe wants it to be.
Acciari has definitely shown his value instantly and will be a fan favourite during whatever length of time he plays in Toronto. The great thing about Acciari as a fourth liner is that it certainly sets the Leafs up for having four lines they will comfortably be able to roll throughout the reminder of the season and into the playoffs. The concern over bottom six scoring remains very real, but nothing about Keefe’s approach to date shows that he shares the concern of those calling for more offense from that group.
Sandin is definitely more hurt than originally advertised so it’s kind of funny that his absence tonight is still being sold as good news. At least he’s skating.
One of the many things I like about Samsonov is how eager he is to get back in after a bad night and redeem himself. I don’t know how much it was his choice or not, and the Leafs will likely be leaning on him right through until the back-to-backs next week in Alberta, but all hail our gastrointestinal king.
Leafs play tonight at 7:30 PM in Buffalo, the preview can be found here.

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