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Victoria, BC • Canada • 2013 Years Old • Male
Here is how I think the Leafs should break down their lines for next season. First off, we know three things for sure, based on what Paul Maurice has indicated:

1) Mats Sundin will be the first-line centre (okay, this one was obvious).
2) Jason Blake will begin the season on the first line.
3) Kyle Wellwood will be the second-line centre.

Given that, I think the Leafs should breakdown their lines thusly:

Blake-Sundin-Steen
Ponikarovsky-Wellwood-Antropov
Stajan-Bell-Tucker
Kilger-Pohl-Deveraux

HEALTHY SCRATCHES:Battaglia, Belak (only used when we want to beat the living sh*t out of someone who injured one of our top players- I'm looking at you, Cam Janssen!)

AHL CALLUPS: Newbury, Williams

I should also note that, if Peca is re-signed, I would move him to 3rd line C, have Bell take over on 4th line RW, and scratch Deveraux.

The reason, behind my line arrangements? This is why:

FIRST LINE: The intention of this line is to have an offensive upside with solid playmaking, good scoring, but some physical presence as well. The addition of Blake gives the Leafs this ability, and gives Sundin a far better winger than he had last season. Sundin, despite his scoring slump, still maintained solid playmaking skills, and, who better to pass to than a 40-goal scorer? Granted, Blake likely won't accomplish the same feat this year, and he has a tendency to be selfish with the puck, but at least, with a playmaker like Mats, we can exploit such a situation. Moreover, playing on such a line would improve the numbers of Steen, who I continue to believe has great potential.

SECOND LINE: The second line is another intended scoring line, anchored by Kyle Wellwood. At first, my idea was to make this a speedy scoring line, but, by adding Nik Antropov to the mix, I've effectively ended that (NOTE: this stemmed from the fact I felt that he was not worthy of first-line status). Wellwood is a solid playmaker with great hands, while Ponikarvosky and Antropov have the best chemistry of any linemates on the team. I could see this line potentially developing into a solid offensive one.

THIRD LINE: The formula to every successful team is the concept of a "checking line"- simply put, a line made up of defensive-minded players who could score, but also play the defensive game. Ideally, I would have wanted the Leafs to pursue Scott Hartnell or Dainius Zubrus for such a role; however, it was not to be. If Peca returns to Toronto, the Leafs will have one of the best defensive forwards in the game anchoring the line; however, if not, the Leafs will have to place gritty forward Mark Bell at centre. On this line are Darcy Tucker who, despite his subpar 5-on-5 play of years past, still can get physical, and would be effective on such a line. Also on here is Stajan, someone who I believe, if he can put on some weight (which would help him stay on his feet), could be trained to be an effective defensive player. Again, though, I envision this line being A LOT better with Peca at centre; therefore, I hope he is re-signed.

FOURTH LINE: The fourth line is a pseudo-checking line, made up of solid defensive players who can also chip in offensively when needed. It should also be a training ground for Kris Newbury and Jeremy Williams in times of injury.

As for the defensive lines:

McCabe-Kaberle
Gill-White
Kubina-Colaiacovo

AHL CALLUPS: Pilar, Wozniewski, Stralman (if he plays in North America)

This formula is simple: offensive, puck-moving D-men on the first line, stay-at-home blueliners on the second pairing.

Where goaltending is concerned, we have one goalie in Vesa Toskala who, while showing promise, has yet to play a full season, and another in Andrew Raycroft who showed great fatigue throughout the season, and clearly cannot handle playing 72 games. Throw in Justin Pogge, a solid prospect currently with the Marlies, who could use some time in the NHL to get his feet wet. Here is how I think the game breakdown should be next season.

LEAFS:
Toskala: 45
Raycroft: 35
Pogge: 2

MARLIES:
Pogge: 45
Clemmensen: 35

Where special teams are concerned, the Leafs need the best offensive players on the PP, and on the PK, they need three defensive forwards, and a stay-at-home D-man (not Gill, due to lack of speed). Therefore, here is how I think the main special teams lines should break down:

PP:
Wellwood-Sundin-Tucker
Blake-Stajan-Steen (2nd line)
McCabe-Kaberle

Wellwood and Sundin are both great playmakers, Sundin can score big goals, and Tucker is at his offensive peak with the man advantage. The combination worked in the early part of the season, and I could see it repeating such success. Add a puck-moving defenseman (Kaberle) and a powerful point shot (McCabe), and that works wonders.

PK:
Kilger-Bell-Blake
Stajan-Sundin-Deveraux (2nd line)
White

If Peca re-signs, it goes without saying: he will be on the 1st PK line.

Another important thing to prepare for- a sad reality of the New NHL- is the shootout. I think it would be wise to figure out what our shootout lineup would look like for next year. Here is my idea of our top five:

1) Wellwood
2) Blake
3) Sundin
4) Steen
5) Pohl

Anyone can add what they like to this.
Filed Under:   Toronto Maple Leafs   2007-08  
July 19, 2007 12:59 PM ET | Delete
Nice analysis, Leafer. Good luck this year!
July 19, 2007 3:49 PM ET | Delete
I think you are on the right track, I particularly like Steen on the top line with Sundin, hopefully playing with real linemates will get him away from trying to do it all himself.There are a few things that I do not understand. 1) Why move the physical Bell to center, and the huge wimp Stajan to the wing. Bell has played more time on the wing, and would be far superior to Stajan there.2) Why is stone hands Stajan on the powerplay? I would be much happier to see Antro and Poni on there as they can actually cycle the puck effectively.3) Your PK lines are strange. There is always 2 dmen on the ice in a PK role, and the best PKer was Gill. White was pretty poor on the PK and thus not used very much. I think the PK break down would be more effective as:Kilger BellGill KubinaStajan DevereauxKaberle McCabeOne of the big problems with the Leafs team last year was the over use of McCabe. Not because of his defensive short comings but simply because he was always playing tired. He was frequently played on the 1st unit powerplay agains the other teams top line and on the first unit pk. Getting McCabe off the the first PK unit would leave him energized and I believe would have positive effects on the rest of his game.
July 19, 2007 8:23 PM ET | Delete
Interesting line combinations but cant see Tucker playing third line, i think him and blake being feisty players they should play together and form a quicker line with Wellwood in this case our top two lines would present two very different forms of attack. Poni-Sundin-Antropov and Tucker-Wellwood-Blake in my opinion would be our top two lines while Williams-Pohl-Steen as our third unit and Kilger-Deveraux-Bell on the fourth line.Would like to see the Leafs sign Peca and even trade for a scoring winger (hopefully Stajan in package) but as the team is, these would be my lines.
July 20, 2007 2:51 AM ET | Delete
Steen I don't think have developed long enough to log the entire season on the first line, Interesting combo though just that that kinda endurance and stamina take time. I think he'll have a breakout year though, my lines went like this.Poni Sundin BlakeSteen Wellwood BellTucker Stajan Antropovand same 4th line.My reasoning is this tucker and bell are similar in playing style both on the same line I don't think will do too much. Antropov I realize is pretty low but will prob see first line pp, as his work in the corners and size is useful. Tucker prob first pp too. Good analysis enjoyed reading it.
July 20, 2007 10:07 PM ET | Delete
I'd like to see more of a line combo like this:Blake - Sundin - BellPoni - Wellwood - AntropovTucker - Steen - StajanKilger - Pohl - DevereauxThis puts Sundin on a line with two gritty guys. Blake can score a lot (Bell has shown potential in the past). Even if we get Sundin and Blake building Chemistry, Bell can create a lot of room for them. Welly is our best playmaker, and setting him in between the twin towers gives a good offensive line. Putting Tucker with the kids keeps them safe, and also allows them to cover up on Tuckers defensive issues, while also having a good chance to generate offense. Ideally, I'd put Newbury on that line, but I guess we have to stick with JFJ's pickup in Pohl.if Peca comes back:Blake - Sundin - BellPoni - Wellwood - AntropovTucker - Peca - SteenKilger - Stajan - DevereauxOnly change is Peca centering our third line. That would make it a strong defensive line, while allowing both Peca and Steen to work offensively with Darcy. Stajan would get good experience working on a gritty energy line, and maybe be able to work his way up in the depth chart (or we trade him)Good work, I think your lines could work out. PK is the only issue I have with it, we need 2 d-men on the ice at all times.
July 22, 2007 5:59 AM ET | Delete
I like; Blake-Sundin-Steen/Poni-Wellwood-Tucker/Bell-Stajan-Antropov/Kilger-Pohl-Deveraux. By like, I mean that I think this is the best possible "on-paper" arrangement for these players.
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