Leafs find big number one center finally to solve their biggest need
Carlyle To Experiment JVR At Center.. For Now
Randy Carlyle mildly broke the Leaf Land silence Thursday afternoon with the announcement that he’d be moving newly acquired forward, James van Riemsdyk, to center for camp and going from there.
When Brian Burke announced the trade, he entertained the possibility of having JVR play center. Though his natural position is the left wing, Burke stated that the actuality of him playing center would be up to Head Coach, Randy Carlyle.
“I ensivion him mostly on the wall,” Burke told a Saturday night conference call. “From my perspective we are not big enough. He’s a big body with skill and those players are hard to find.”
Though Burke also mentioned that JVR does not “play big”, meaning physical, but that a big presence is what the Leafs lineup lacks. He also likes the front of the net, a style which would suit someone playing center. However, moving him to center seems to crowd the lineup with players playing unfamiliar positions.
For example, Tim Connolly will likely be the odd man out and be forced to play the wing. Not to mention the improved play of Nazem Kadri will likely land him on the roster next season. I also believe Tim Connolly has the potential to pick up his game, if he’s given premium time on the top line. Connolly has some of the best individual talent on the roster. Bumping two of your most gifted players to an unnatural position doesn’t seem like a move that will breed success.
Leafs' van Riemsdyk centre of attention
Carlyle to try big body in the middle
TORONTO - Randy Carlyle wants to see what James van Riemsdyk can do at centre.
The Maple Leafs coach said that, at this point, the plan is to give van Riemsdyk a long look at the position when training camp opens in September, provided there is no work stoppage.
“He’s a big man and we’re going to try him playing in the middle for us,” Carlyle said on Thursday as he returned to his Manitoulin Island cottage following the Leafs’ prospects camp at the MasterCard Centre.
“It’s always nice to have a 6-foot-plus centre in your top six. We feel there is an opportunity to explore him at centre.
“I have talked to him and he has asked for some video work.”
Drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers in 2007, the 6-foot-3, 200-pound van Riemsdyk had experience playing centre before he got to the NHL, at the University of New Hampshire and with the U.S. under-18 program.
In three seasons with the Flyers, van Riemsdyk primarily patrolled the left wing. There’s nothing that says van Riemsdyk will begin the 2012-13 regular season at centre, and general manager Brian Burke wants to upgrade at the position, reiterating this week that he is looking to make more changes via trade.
The Leafs roster includes centres Tim Connolly, Mikhail Grabovski, Tyler Bozak, David Steckel and newcomer Jay McClement, as well as Matthew Lombardi. If van Riemsdyk turns out to be a valuable addition up the middle, something is going to have to give somewhere, whether it is through trade or by switching a couple of players to the wing. And not to be forgotten is prospect Joe Colborne. Nazem Kadri’s future with the Leafs, if he is not traded appears to be on the wing.
McClement was signed on Sunday, and Carlyle had some influential input into the acquisition. The 29-year-old McClement spent the first seven seasons of his NHL career in the Western Conference with the St. Louis Blues and Colorado Avalanche, and Carlyle, as coach of the Anaheim Ducks, saw plenty of him.
To ensure no stones were unturned, Carlyle talked to former Leafs forward Alex Steen, a teammate of McClement with the Blues and a friend of Carlyle’s son, about McClement. Steen vouched enthusiastically for ex-teammate. McClement has been a stand-up player since his junior days with the Brampton Battalion, and Carlyle knows that bringing another dash of leadership into the room won’t hurt.