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.