It’s late July, and I’m a very bored hockey nut. Today I did what I always do around this time of year: Bust out a pencil and try to figure out what the Leafs’ opening night lineup is going to be.
I am now thoroughly confused.
Unless I’m missing something, or unless the Leafs still have a trade up their sleeve, this is going to be one weird-looking Leafs lineup in October.
Here’s how the process went…
First I got the MGK line out of the way, simply because they’ve played so much together. We’ll assume that’s the "second" line.
Let’s also assume Joffrey Lupul and Phil Kessel stay together on the top line since they produced like mad men together. For now, we’ll put Tim Connolly between them because when he’s healthy and on his game, that’s probably what the Leafs had in mind for him when they signed him. Alright, so there’s two lines.
Let’s slot Tyler Bozak into the number three centre slot between James van Riemsdyk, who usually played left with Philly, and… Matt Frattin, I guess? Why not. The other option is Mike Brown.
Then we put David Steckel between Matt Lombardi on the left and Mike Brown on the right. That gives us…
Makes sense, right?
Oh, wait a sec. I forgot somebody pretty important – Jay McClement. Toronto didn’t sign this guy for nothing, after all. He’s considered by many to be one of the league’s better penalty killers, and he’s being given $1.5 million for the next two seasons, so you should assume he isn’t scratched. Alright, how about…
There. Perfect…Wait a sec. Now Setckel’s benched. The guy was sixth in NHL faceoff percentage, and he’s an opening night scratch? No, no. Let me try this again.
There! Now the Leafs have both McClement and Steckel in the lineup. That’s actually a decent bottom six defensively. I like how this lo-WAIT A SECOND! Where’s Bozak? Scratched? That can’t be. SO MUCH CONFUSION!
OK – What if we just put Bozak on the right wing on the third line and send down Frattin? Actually, Frattin just signed a one-way deal, so that doesn’t make much sense…
How about if Bozak plays RW on the third line, bump Frattin down to the fourth line, and Mike Brown gets scratched? Actually, no. That’s dumb. Give Frattin five minutes a night in place of Mike Brown, a guy who you signed specifically for that role? No. Just no.
Crap! Know who I forgot? Leo Komarov! They just signed this guy, he’s 25, fresh off of a KHL title, and a born agitator. OK how about…
There. Agitator on the fourth line with Mike Brown? Could be decent. I mean, Matthew Lombardi’s $3.5 million salary cap hit will just be sitting in the press box, but hey. If Komisarek can sit, so can this guy.
Oh, wait… I forgot Nazem Kadri. Oh, and Carter Ashton. Oh, and AHL playoff phenom Jerry D’Amigo. Oh, and I’m assuming Colton Orr remains in the AHL and Jay Rosehill isn’t re-signed.
Suffice to say, I’m pretty confused.
I’m left with a few burning questions:
- How the hell are the Leafs going to try van Riemsdyk, a player with just 10 career NHL faceoffs, as a centre, when they already have six natural centres (Connolly, Grabovski, Bozak, McClement, Steckel, Lombardi) on the roster, not including prospects?
- Is Matt Frattin the real deal?
- Will Nazem Kadri emerge as a legitimate full-time NHL player?
- Can the likes of Jerry D’Amigo or Carter Ashton steal an opening night job?
- Would Leo Komarov bolt back to europe if he were assigned to the AHL?
- What happens if Matthew Lombardi has a comeback season?
- What happens if Matthew Lombardi sucks?
- Will Jay Rosehill or Colton Orr ever play in a Leafs uniform ever again?
- Why do I do this to myself?
I haven’t even gotten to the defence yet! Nation, I’m turning to you for answers. What is going to happen?