So there is a lot of speculation and dissection of how the Leafs lines are going to work out this upcoming season. After the Patrick Marleau signing there’s been non stop mock lineups and debates on who deserves what and who should be the odd man out. Not saying I hate the mock lineups and debates and arguments, I love them, in fact I go through many myself. But those thoughts and desires change daily so we really need to get to the bottom of who belongs where.
Of course the fan base has no say in what Babcock does, and yes some don’t like what he does with his lineups, including me. That was at least up until the other day when I really thought about it and dissected his strategies.
We’ve got an overwhelming boatload of wingers and our depth is insanely good, I mean we had Kasperi Kapanen and Josh Leivo as 4th line wingers plus depth in Marlies. Again, with endless amounts of mock lineups and comparisons here’s what it has to come down to.
Here’s the truth and I know for myself I’ve thought against Babs decisions time over time but I’ve come to realize that everything doesn’t always come to you the way you want it. By that I mean that we probably won’t see a line with Marner – Matthews- Nylander just because that’s not how the game works nowadays, that’s not lines are constructed.
So I’d like to take the time to go through each winger that should be here in October and who they could end up beside, including a few that may be a dark horse or two.
I would like to start off with Zach Hyman and yes I know there’s people that don’t understand why he plays on our top line, I didn’t fully grasp it until recent reflection and here’s why.
Zach Hyman is with Matthews for one main reason, he’s there to do the crap that Babcock does not want Matthews or Nylander or Marner to do. It may sound kinda mean that he gets Hyman to do all the dirty work but he’s a horse and loves doing it. Babcock relishes his willingness to give his best night in and night out, he’s a warrior that won’t back down from competition.
While Hyman may not have the skill or hands or pure hockey talent of Nylander or Marner, he has the strength and the speed and the drive to the net, he doesn’t shy away and this is what I call a complimentary player. You put the guy with Matthews and it works well to provide open ice and an ability to find the puck more often because Hyman does the work and digs it out. It benefits Matthews and keeps him from getting get banged up as much.
Skill isn’t everything, your team doesn’t have to have a highly gifted skilled player in every position, but what a team needs is players with speed and grittiness to compliment your star players. Anyways enough on Zach Hyman, that’s why he’s here for another 4 years and whether you like it or not he’s likely to play with Matthews instead of Marleau.
Brown is very similar to Hyman so I won’t go too deep, but Brown is another complimentary player and I call him a utility guy, he can play anywhere and he succeeds, he scored 20 goals in rookie season playing with multiple different combos.
He will go into the corners and do the dirty work but he has more skill than Hyman which is nice so he can play anywhere, I’d personally rather Brown with Matthews but oh well.
Brown will do whatever Babcock wants him to do and that’s why he’ll be here awhile. All the trade talks of Brown being traded should be destroyed.
He’s not really a winger, he’ll eventually be a center once Bozak is done, I like him on Auston’s wing and would like him to stay there, that playoff chemistry was impressive. But if Bozak is gone, you can’t play Moore or Gauthier as your 3rd center and Marleau won’t be around forever so you’d think they’ll work him to a center position eventually.
But the kid is my favourite, I love his style and his tremendous upside, again I’d burn the trade talks if there’s anymore, he’s not going anywhere, he will likely end up signing a 6-7 year extension. He’s not a piece you move anytime soon.
He belongs with Matthews until they need him to play at center.
Leo, I love your leadership and what you bring to this team, you’re a little sh** disturber and Babs loves that, all I can say is keep doing what you’re doing for as long as you’re here.
I believe there is a slight possibility he’s traded before his contract is up, if not I don’t know if they’ll resign him, he’d be nice to have but we have so much in the pipeline we can’t keep everyone.
James Van Riemsdyk
Trade him or you’ll lose him.
Jvr is a talented guy and can score consistently but he doesn’t have that urgency or motivation in his game, he’s a liability defensively. Once his contract is up, they likely won’t be able to afford him, if they do keep him it’s short term and at that point in his career I’m sure he wants to sign long term. Not happening in Toronto, James.
He came off a good season, they’ve signed Marleau, which I think should replace JVR, he’s better defensively that’s for sure and he can still score.
If JVR gets me a Dman I’m waving goodbye, git r’ done Lou.
Not gonna explain anything here, if you haven’t already, go read Jude MacDonald’s piece, everything you need to know about Martin and why he’s here.
Let’s start with this, Marner deserves better line mates. Yes, JVR and Bozak are alright but Marner is way out of their league and could put up even better numbers with say Matthews or Kadri or Nylander or Marleau. I feel like Marner does all the work on that line and it’s unfair. But Mitchy has definitely got a solid career ahead and he can produce and makes a whole lot of something outta nothing. But he needs to be flanked with responsible two way guys who can keep up with him mentally and his speed.
PS: The bromance between Martin and Marner is adorable.
What a veteran presence to bring in to help this team out. He’s gonna be a great mentor for the kids and if need be he can play center, but in my mind he’s a perfect replacement for JVR, he scored 27 goals last year and he’s 37, he’s got enough left in the tank for a 30 goal season if he has playmaker Marner on his line.
All in all there’s not much to say other than he’s going to be played everywhere, lots of fans would love him to play with Matthews but how awesome does Kapanen-Marleau-Marner sound? Am I right?
This kid is the next playoff maniac, this kid is going to be clutch, he tied the game to get them in playoffs, and scores an OT goal against Washington in first round. Like he’s got upside and he’s going to be really clutch if used properly.
He’s also the fastest Skater in the organization, got great hands and a good shot, he’d look good with Matthews but it likely won’t happen, but Kapanen is not a fourth liner, there needs to be tweaks to fit him in top 6.
He has proven he can score in the NHL, damn he’s got a NHL shot, he just wasn’t given much of an opportunity after he showed them what he’s got. I believe they played him for a bit to see if they wanted to protect him or Leipsic and they clearly liked what they saw.
Leipsic was still a tremendous prospect and would have been great but best of luck to him.
Leivo could also replace JVR, but Kapanen and Marleau should have first dibs, Leivo on fourth line gives depth and that line could score 15 goals a season I’d be extremely happy.
Maybe more so than anyone, I really don’t know where Sosh fits. If somebody does, help me out. Versatile, gritty, elements of skill, but hard pressed to find a spot and stay healthy. Very curious where he ends up in 2017/18.
Grundstrom and Rychel
They could both make a push for October but I don’t see the room, but eventually Grundstrom will be a nice piece to do what Komarov and Hyman do and he’s got skill too, feisty for his size.
Rychel is a tough one, I don’t think he’ll ever make it past our football urth line unless there’s lots moved out, there’s not room as it stands unless he really impresses.
After all that, here’s what the lines should look like this season, and what they’ll look like when Bozak and Van Riemsdyk are gone.
In fact I expect JVR to be gone or else one of Brown or Hyman is on fourth line and Kapanen doesn’t play.
Now here’s what it should look like, Bozak and Jvr have to be moved though.
Thank you for reading!
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Hope everyone is having a good summer and #IsItOctoberYet?