Now, I realize that with a bit of common sense and realistic expectations it's pretty easy to take a stab at what the Leafs will look like next season. Yet I frequently see people making odd guesses/ projections for the team to then defend themselves till their blue in the face...
So I'm just going to write down the lines I believe most likely to be put out on opening day and explain myself a little bit.
Joffrey Lupul - Tim Connolly - Phil Kessel
Nikolai Kulemin - Mikhail Grabovski - Clarke MacArthur
Nazem Kadri - Tyler Bozak - Colby Armstrong
Mike Brown - Darryl Boyce - Jay Rosehill
Dion Phaneuf - Keith Aulie
J-M Liles - Luke Schenn
Carl Gunnarsson - Cody Fransen
Ok, so for the most part pretty straight forward.
The first line I don't think anyone expects anything different Kessel is and always will be on the first line, his center will be newly signed Tim Connolly and Joffrey Lupul will be there to make some space for the pair while scoring a few himself.
Second line is the easiest of all, Clarke MacArthur re-signed with the team and thus penned his name on the 2nd line with Nikolai Kulemin opposite to him and Mikhail Grabovski as their center. This line was by far the most consistant threat during the regular season for the Leafs and if it wasn't a fluke expect the same type of production from this line again.
The third line to make makes perfect sense but some people seem to have much different ideas. I have been hearing people say Matt Frattin will come and take the wing that Kadri is penciled in to have. While that might be a possibility after seeing him play the final game of last season, it is still Kadri's spot to lose. Kadri has proven himself more fit in every way to be put on the team and unless Frattin knocks socks off during camp this year he will most likely be a Marlie next year which in my eyes is great for him and his development. I've also heard that Lombardi will be centering the third line, but I just can't see it. The trade for him and Fransen was to dump our garbage low contract players, while snagging the budding Fransen. The only way to do that was by taking on Lombardi's moderate salary, Burke wasn't and isn't expecting him to play anytime soon and probably not this year at all. This is why Bozak gets the spot which is fine, I believe he will thrive with less responsibility while continuing to win majority of his faceoffs and adding scoring to the third line.
The fourth line really is up in the air but so far Mike Brown and Darryl Boyce get their spots because they have spent 50 games last year in that roll already and did a fine job at 8-10 minutes a night. Rosehill to me is the question mark I can easily see Phillip Dupuis swapping in for him or any of the other 3 players I mentioned simply because any combination of the 4 can be used well in different rolls, PK, Grinding, Fighting, and the odd suprising goal.
The first pairing I don't think I even need to mention, but with the defensive responsability of Keith Aulie, Dion Phaneuf has been able to shine and should be able to produce well this coming year (with a bit of aim practice in the off-season.)
The Second pair is almost identical but a little less skewed. Dion's 30pts in 66 gamesand Keith's 2pts in 40 games are opposite sides of the spectrum and work very well together. The idea is the same with Liles and Schenn, Liles was signed to replace Kaberle and his numbers show he is very similar. The only difference I can say of Liles is that he is very slightly more physical that Kaberle was. Liles gets from 40-50pts a season and with Luke setting slight career highs 3 years in a row now should turn out to be a lethal pair.
The third pair is another one that people have been in verbal battles over. Mike Komisarek is a good guy I won't argue that, but he has not done well in Toronto so far and just because he has an 'A' on his sweater doesn't mean you put better players in the press box. Kaberle had an 'A' too remember? Then they took it away. While people don't doubt Fransen will be on the third pairing, many state that Komi vitos the Gunn show because of that 'A'. I just don't think Wilson will be that foolish this year, it's his last year to impress and with a better roster to pick from failing will now be put on his shoulders. Gunnersson will be used to settle down Fransen's poor defensive play and can cover for his mistakes while he learns. Komisarek has not proven he has the ability to do that and has not earned the trust from his coach, this is why he will either be traded, or become the 7th man.
James Reimer has a small but very impressive NHL portfolio built, playing in 35 games and putting up a 20-10-5 record. Not bad for someone who was supposed to be fighting Jussi Rynnas for the starting roll on the Marlies. His .921 save % 2.6GAA and 3 shutouts all show that this kid from Manitoba has huge potential and he will be given every chance to reach that potential this coming season.
Jonas Gustavsson is someone who has had a whirlwind past year, from losing his mother to having a rare second heart abalation, he just hasn't caught a break. This guy has some serious skill but the begining of this year has shown frustration leaking through his game and understandibly so. After both he and Giguere being hurt last season, James Reimer quickly stole the show and because of Giguere being a veteran and a pure class act, Gustav lost the backup position as well as the leading roll he was supposed to be fighting for. This also ment less time in practice, little change for any game time and alot of negative media. The only thing I can say is I'm glad Giguere found another team, and that The monster has another chance to prove something, he was sent down breifly for a conditioning stint on the Marlies and played fantastically making a 3-1-1 record with 1.1GAA and a .955 save % I was also impressed to find out he lost one game in a shootout with the score being 0-0.
So there you have it I guess that wasn't brief at all but I felt like I had to explain myself well lest I be torn apart by ravenous leafers.
Well let me know what you think, also please excuse any grammar or spelling mistakes. I am terrible. Thanks