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:
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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:
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:
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.
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:
Blake-Stajan-Steen (2nd line)
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.
Stajan-Sundin-Deveraux (2nd line)
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:
Anyone can add what they like to this.
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