Toronto Maple Leafs: Final Roster Still Full Of Question Marks
Whether the 2012-13 NHL season starts on-time or is delayed due to the ongoing CBA discussions, the Toronto Maple Leafs will have plenty of question marks where their roster is concerned.
Since his arrival in Toronto in November of 2008, Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke has failed to address the clubs glaring need for a first line centre. While Burke will ask new arrival James van Riemsdyk to attempt to fill the first line centre role this fall, there is no guarantee he can handle the job.
Burke’s only other option would be to promote second line centre Mikhail Grabovski to fill the role of the first line centre or to go back to Tyler Bozak, who played with wingers Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul on Toronto’s first line last season, registering 18 goals and 29 assists for a total of 47 points in 73 games played.
When you consider Burke’s current roster there are few guarantees where the lineup is concerned. Kessel and Lupul will man the wings on the Maple Leafs top line, but after that expect to see a lot of line juggling by head coach Randy Carlyle in an attempt to find some chemistry on the second line and beyond.
Speculation has the oft-criticized Nazem Kadri arriving in training camp in the best shape of his young NHL career. Should Kadri make the big club out of training camp he is expected to get serious consideration for a top-six role, meaning one of Nikolai Kulemin or Clarke MacArthur might get bumped off the second unit.
Should Kadri make the club a virtual landslide may take place as players are bumped from familiar roles into defensive roles or just plain bumped from the lineup all together.
The most at-risk forwards to be bumped from the lineup are big-ticket players such as Tim Connolly and Matthew Lombardi. Both players struggled last season and both players are seen thought to be overpaid. Newcomer Leo Komarov may also have a tough time adjusting to the NHL, which means he may see his fair share of the press box before the season is through.
The Hockey News Yearbook lists Joffrey Lupul, Phil Kessel and Tyler Bozak as the Maple Leafs first line followed by a second line of James van Riemsdyk, Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin. Matt Frattin, Jay McClement and Clarke MacArthur are expected to man the third line, while David Steckel, Mike Brown and the aforementioned Komarov are slotted in on the fourth line.
While it is hard to argue with The Hockey News’ selections, a case could be made for any number of line combinations. Carlyle demonstrated he would not hesitate to make changes to his lineup should he feels his troops are not gelling. And with Kadri and JVR both quagmires, it is tough to make any predictions up front until we know where these two players stand.