WWYDW: The blueline

Earlier today, hockey guru Bob McKenzie opened his Twitter mentions up to questions while he killed time at an airport. One person asked who Bob figured should play on the Maple Leafs’ bottom pairing.

McKenzie suggested that Calle Rosen and Andreas Borgman would get an opportunity to play alongside Connor Carrick out of camp, and he also stated that the top-four will likely consist of a Morgan Rielly/Ron Hainsey pairing and a Jake Gardiner/Nikita Zaitsev duo.

That brings us to today’s What Would You Do Wednesday question — what does your Toronto Maple Leafs blueline look like this season?

Last season, the Leafs commonly rolled with Morgan Rielly/Nikita Zaitsev and Jake Gardiner/Connor Carrick as the top two pairings, Hunlack as the third pair, and Martin Marincin came in and out of the lineup when necessary. Gardiner and Carrick had excellent underlying numbers in a largely offensive role, and Rielly and Zaitsev were solid but bled a lot of shot attempts against together but made up for it by driving play offensively. Hunlack was Hunlack. Their job was to play tough and gritty hockey in the defensive zone.

So that brings us back to this season. The Leafs have Zaitsev and Carrick as the only two right-handed defencemen, while Rielly, Gardiner, Hainsey are all left-handed, but Hainsey can play on his off-side. Those five are the obvious choices to crack the roster, while the other two slots will be filled by Martin Marincin, Calle Rosen, Andreas Borgman, or Travis Dermott, all of whom are left-handed. Marincin would have to go through waivers if he doesn’t crack the team, and the other three don’t, making him a fairly certain option to be one of those final two defencemen.

So, Leafs Nation, who are your seven defenceman? Who plays with who? Do you split up the successful pairing of Gardiner and Carrick? Do you seek out a veteran defenceman through a PTO before the season? Who gets deployed in what situation? Who are you putting on the ice to defend a lead with a minute to go in a game? There are lots of questions and only a few weeks left until training camp starts and we have real things to talk about!

  • FlareKnight

    The blueline will be pretty interesting to see. Plenty of potential to change things up which isn’t bad. And a lot of guys trying to crack the lineup in a position where there are just only at best 7 spots to fight for.

    I wouldn’t be surprised to see Rielly/Hainsey, Gardiner/Zaitsev, [Pick a Guy]/Carrick, with Marincin as the designated 7th guy. Not sure in all honesty who gets that spot with Carrick. I’d like to see Dermott crack the lineup, but I’m sure both guys from Sweden want a job in the NHL right out of camp. Whoever looks the best should get the job, that’s all I’ve got.

  • leafdreamer

    What I would do is sign Polak and run him and Marincin as a pair. I’d also have then as the 1st PK unit. The other two pairings would be Rielly and Hainsey and Gardiner and Zaitsev. I would let the Swedes and Dermott/Nilsen play on the Marlies with Carrick sitting in the press-box until someone gets injured.

    It may also not be a bad idea to carry an extra pairing on the active roster (i.e. Carrick and Borgman) and have them sub in for whichever pairing is struggling throughout the season and thus play essentially with 8 defensemen.

      • leafdreamer

        If you were asking me about Carrick it’s because he’s been very bad last season and that became aooarent to everyone including Babcock as soon as he was seperated from Gardiner. I guess I don’t think he’s very good and I wonder if his game (which is great for AHL) translates to NHL.

        • magesticRAGE

          When Carrick plays in the AHL, his game is high risk and dynamic. At the NHL, the things that made him dynamic though high risk, doesn’t work. His fundamentals aren’t strong enough In my opinion.

  • The Russian Rocket

    I think Carrick ends up with Reilly by February and Hainsey ends up in the third pair. Marincin will be in the pressbox and Dermott will be over-ripening in the AHL. Next year Dermott is a lock.

  • magesticRAGE

    I am intrigued to see how Hainsey fares on Reilly’s right, essentially freeing up Reilly’s game a bit. Gardiner and Zaitsev I know would work, but I would like to see a younger player not named Carrick as his partner. Gardiner does a good job sheltering players. Here’s my fantasy blueline:

    This lineup technically has a third pairing, but wouldn’t play like Reilly-Hainsey & Gardiner-Zaitsev would be the penalty killers to start, but if Borgman and Valiev make the team I do see them making their way to the PK.

    Hainsey on the team, Gardiner-Zaitsev on PP1, Reilly and a young player on the second unit.