After a slew of 4 games in 4 nights and the first cut, the Leafs roster is beginning to take shape.
After the Kessel trade, the top 6 becomes a little more crowded but not until November!
With Ron Wilson’s comments indicating that Nazem Kadri is all but assured to go back to London not because of his play but because of his youth, we can now assume the Leafs will go in 1 of 3 directions:
1.) Be Conservative, play the veterans, stay the course-This approach will be met with scrutiny as the performances of many young players both in camp and in pre-season games will be undervalued. It opens up a strong possibility of intense competition for spots in 2010. It also sets up contract worries as if all of the rookies start the same year, all the contracts expire that year and everyone is green with less experience. Under this model, a line-up such as the following could open and continue through November.
*line-up in the top 6 will fluctuate once Kessel returns in search of chemistry. Also after 1 month, Mayers is the likely 13th forward.
** This group will likely remain unchanged. VanRyn is the most likely player to be dealt given his UFA status next year and better value for the dollar than Finger. White could be dealt but the asking price would be higher. Look for Columbus here.
2.) Be very aggressive and let those who punched their own ticket play-This approach would excite Leaf fans around the world but give both Brian Burke and Ron Wilson headaches. A younger, faster, less experienced team would certainly make the Leafs both entertaining and volatile. While defense and goaltending would remain the same as noted in bold above, the forward core could look like the following:
Ponikarovsky – Grabovski – Tlutsy/Kulemin
Hagman- Stajan – Kessel/Blake
*in this scenario, bad cap hits such as Stempniak and Mayers are sent to the Marlies as is just acquired Wallin which would likely tarnish Burke’s bringing him over and potentially Gustavsson’s comfort level. 4 rookie forwards and a rookie goaltender would make the team. Allowing this many college players to play would certainly elevate Toronto for top college free agents which is a good thing with 3 of our top 4 picks in the next two drafts being dealt for Kessel.
3.) A mix of both which is harder to predict-This is harder to predict. In this scenario you need to balance giving Wallin a spot for Gustavsson’s comfort and for the ability to cherry pick top European talents. You need to play Bozak and/or Hanson and Stalberg to increase your college free agent presence. You need to play Brian Burke type players with a Brian Burke type top 6/bottom 6. Wow this was hard. Luckily, again the D and goaltending likely is already fixed.
Hagman- Stajan – Blake/Kessel
*This line-up would infuse all of the elements from above, bury a bad contract in Mayers. Give Bozak the first month on the big team as Hanson got 5 games last year. Let Wallin play. Give the Marlies one of the most explosive offenses in the AHL with Stalberg, Hanson, Bozak, Tlutsy or Kulemin, D. Mitchell, DiDomenico, Stefanovich, Boyce, Slaney, etc. Setup 2010 well, be competitive and set up some more trades for commodities like Stempniak.
Trades and injuries obviously skew these numbers and hopefully BB can make a couple of moves to re-coup draft picks by moving Stempniak, VanRyn and others that have value, decent contracts and could garner 2nd-4th round picks. We’ll see but we are really only a week away from getting the final answer on this.
What do you see happening?
Also, do the Leafs make or have a better chance of making the playoffs based on which direction they choose to go?