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ndk
ON • Canada • 27 Years Old • Male
If this off season is as slow and arduous to any of you as it is to me I'm guessing many of you have already tried the same exercise that i'm about to do. In fact, i've seen many suggestions on the HB boards, and they have in part helped shape my perception of how the Leafs will look come opening night.

Now, keep in mind, there can still be changes to the roster within the next few weeks.. we all know the changes expected so lets just leave that discussion for other blogs.

As of puck drop on opening night i see the Leafs icing a line up similar to this:

Jason Blake - Nik Antropov -Jiri Tlusty
Niklas Hagman - Alexander Steen - Alexei Ponikarovsky
Nikolai Kulemin - Matt Stajan -Jamal Mayers
Mark Bell - Boyd Devereaux - Ryan Hollweg/Bates Battaglia

Tomas Kaberle - Pavel Kubina / Bryan McCabe (if he doesn't wave... very likely)
Jeff Finger - Carlo Colaiacovo
Anton Stralman - Frogren(first name Jonas?) / Ian White

The goalie selection is obvious.

Now before you all go ahead and start calling me a moron for putting person A in position B, I'd rather constructively create the kind of line ups that would work. So please make any suggestions.

I strongly feel that McCabe wont be moved prior to opening night, which means Kubina's gone by the end of the week. If both are gone (it would be pretty great if that did happen) i think the D core would be much better off for the coming season, as we would see minutes spread much more evenly throughout all three lines, as all three lines will be very capable.

While many people are worried that there is no 1st line centre worth mentioning, i kind of like the idea of Nik Antropov playing 1st C. He had an amazing season last year, and i saw flashes of greatness in him when he did play centre (which i believe is his natural position).

Jason Blake i feel will have a much better year this time around. Can't say how much hearing he had cancer affected his play.. but it was his first year in Toronto, with a huge contract, and massive expectations. All that has got to affect a player's game. As much as people want him gone, i think he's still one of the best wingers the Leafs have right now, unless Hagmen proves himself to be that guy at training camp.

The wild cards for next season would have to be Jason Blake, Mark Bell and Carlo Colaiacovo. If JB can return to some semblance of past form (20+ goals) and Mark Bell finally proves himself a serviceable 2nd or 3rd line winger, the offensive woes of this team will be lessened. As far as CC goes.. this guy seems cursed. I've always enjoyed watching him play when he isn't hurt. He has good defensive presence, grit and fearless shot blocking. I could see him being a great partner for Kaberlie if Tomas took it upon himself to shoot more often.

So my question to anyone who feels so inclined to tackle the subject-- How do you see the line ups working out? You may make any assumptions as to known trade rumors or debates currently going on. Try to keep it realistic and please try to respect each other's opinions.

Thanks,

~NDK.
August 3, 2008 7:52 PM ET | Delete
oh.. and i totally forgot about Grabovski... he'll probably be the 2nd line center... make adjustments accordingly.
August 4, 2008 1:10 PM ET | Delete
Hollweg will have a full time slot in the line up. Finger will put his prints all over the defense and will the hand that keeps them going.
ndk
August 4, 2008 2:37 PM ET | Delete
Looking at the basic dept chart... the Leafs have WAY too many 3rd and 4th line forwards. I can't see Battaglia in the line up this coming season, and unless there's a trade.. i don't see how Poni, Mayers and Hollweg keep full time slots in the line up.Jason Blake - Nik Antropov -Jiri TlustyNiklas Hagman - M. Grabovski - Alex SteenNikolai Kulemin - Matt Stajan -Jamal Mayers / PonikarovskiMark Bell - Boyd Devereaux - Ryan Hollweg / Bates Battaglia
August 4, 2008 3:24 PM ET | Delete
Ponikarovsky is a 20 goal scorer - how does he not keep a full time slot in the line up?
August 4, 2008 4:41 PM ET | Delete
You are forgetting something else somewhat important - Kulemin will play on one of the top 2 lines. The guy has basically been guaranteed his roster spot, and the hype around this guy indicates that he can be a great 2 way forward that can also put up points. Despite a career high in goals last year, I see the Leafs slotting Hagman on that 3rd line instead of Kulemin. Maybe swapping those 2 is the only major thing I would do to these lines. I think a Kulemin, Grabov, Steen 2nd line could be a thing of beauty. I also see Mayers being a 4th line character guy. While I was supremely disappointed with Poni's play overall last year, I don't think you relegate the guy to the 4th line (unless he continues to regress), meaning Mayers would be the guy moved down so you would have a 3rd line of Poni, Stajan, and Hagman. And, lastly, you forgot to mention Dominic Moore. After his impressive play late last season, I don't know how this guy doesn't earn at least a 4th line role to start the season. Anyone else?
August 4, 2008 6:04 PM ET | Delete
I'd like to see a lineup like this:Steen-Antropov-TlustyGrabovski-Stajan-KuleminMayers-Bell-HagmanDevereaux-Moore-Newbury/HollwegUnfortunately, Blake and Poni won't be traded.
August 4, 2008 6:25 PM ET | Delete
I'd like to see Tlusty not on the roster this year... lets be honest... he needs some time to develop and seeing as there are more than a few NHL vets ahead of him on the depth chart, he seems a likely candidate for demotion... also, you forgot our good friend Staffan Kronwall, who seems pretty deserving of a roster spot.
August 4, 2008 10:04 PM ET | Delete
Interesting that you post this, my friend and I (both avid leafs fans) were talking about what the lines will look like last night. I am thinking something like:Blake-Antropov-SteenKulemin-Grabovski-Tlusty ((very interesting line i think, could have some huge potential. also, tlusty/steen maybe should be switched around, or maybe even Poni there instead of steen))Hagman-Stajan-MayersHollwed-Bell-DevereauxAs for defense, I think your lines are mostly bang-on, only I would put Stralman on the second line with Finger if he plays as well in camp as he did for Sweden. .. .... and for the love of god, hopefully Carlo has a break-out year and can actually stay healthy.
ndk
August 5, 2008 12:20 AM ET | Delete
The problem with slotting Stralman with Finger is that they brought in Frogren to play with Stralman and i dont see Frogren being placed on any line better than the 3rd defensive line. In a sense-- his fate might be tied with Stralmans.I've heard a lot about Kulemin but i haven't seen anything on this kid, so i assumed he'd start off at a 3rd line winger role and receive promotions based on merit.I'm a huge fane of the Boyd Deveraux / Dominic Moore combo, they are excellent 3rd and 4th liners who play with a sense of urgency and grit. Problem is, with Mayers and Hollwig in, i don't see both of them in the line-up. I don't think Mayers runs the risk of demotion, and Hollweg was brought in to bang some heads, so he'll be the spare. Where's the room?I'm almost certain there will be trades before season starts-- there are way too many NHL level forwards and D-men in depth chart for TML to start the season with. Demoting all the extras to the Marlies will serve little to no purpose-- and will just piss off the NHLPA and make TO seem a less amiable team to play for.Fletch needs to pull a trigger... any trigger.
August 5, 2008 8:53 AM ET | Delete
wouldn't mind seeing Williams in the line up this year
August 5, 2008 2:39 PM ET | Delete
id like to see Tlusty spend a full year at the Marlies playing on the first line and get plenty of PP time. Thinking lines would look something like this:Antropov-Steen-PoniKulemin-Grabo-HagmanMayers-Stajan-BlakeDeveraux-Moore-HollwegBell and Newbury in the box.Ill wait to talk about D cause one of McCabe or Kubina might be moved.
August 6, 2008 10:58 PM ET | Delete
FORWARDS: || Steen - Kulemin - Tlusty || Hagman - Grabovski - Stajan || Bell - Moore - Jamal Mayers || Williams - Devereaux - Hollweg || Spares: Battaglia, Newbury || DEFENSE: || Kaberle - Bouwmeester || McCabe - Kubina || Stralman - Frogren || Spare: Kronwall || GOALIES : Toskala, Joseph || I took the liberty of trading Antropov, Ponikarovsky, Colaiacovo, and White for Bouwmeester and placing Blake in the AHL. I'm sure none will be missed other than Carlo but the poor guy is injured too often. I would have traded the rest of the team but unfortunately the real world doesn't work like NHL 2K8 Franchise mode....
August 6, 2008 11:09 PM ET | Delete
Look at that I forgot about Jeff Finger, well it looks like another year in the AHL for Steffan Kronwall. Kind of obvious that one, come on he's a pro minor leaguer, best marlie defender or not. He could handle 7th duty, but probably better for him to just be in Europe. So not to risk looking like an idiot with a 3.5 million dollar defenseman as a spare, I'll put Finger with Kubina and put McCabe in the pressbox.
August 7, 2008 3:48 PM ET | Delete
I think that putting in a prediction that either McCabe or Kubina will be gone soon was the best part of the blog - likely should have been the core of the post. Everybody seems to forget that the Kubina trade window is closing soon, and that a rebuilding team can`t really afford to carry both Kubina and McCabe for another full season. If I had to make a prediction it would be that Kubina will be dealt to Tampa by Aug 15th. Likely return would be Ouelett and another younger forward making at least $1 million a year....likely Joikinen or Ryan Craig.
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