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Leafs depth up front a huge issue heading into camp

Many of you will know I’m not a numbers and stats guy (they have their place, for sure, I just don’t focus a lot on those things…) so I don’t know, for example, where exactly the Leafs are when it comes to the almighty “cap”.

But you don’t have to know all the numbers to recognize that the Leafs are painfully thin up front heading into a new season.  So if there is one area where they need additional tweaking, it is there.

Yes, they've added some people, but while it's not always necessary to hit a "home run" in the summertime, I'm not certain they even hit a double, when it comes to the forward lines.  We'll see.

We all know the names that will make up the roster in that regard—Kessel and Lupul will likely be with Connolly on, ostensibly, the “first” line.  Grabovski will again center MacArthur and Kulemin.  After that, we have a raft of bottom-six guys, useful pluggers who can chip in once in a while on offense—Armstrong, Bozak, Boyce, Crabb and many others.

Now, the young guys may make a splash…individuals such as Kadri, Frattin, Colborne seem to be on everyone’s tongue.  It's exciting to “project potential”, as I said the other day, but it’s an uncertain science, to be sure.  Those guys may all make the squad, and maybe that re-jigs the forward mix a bit for the better.  Again, we'll see.

But here’s my concern:  last season, the Leafs were remarkably free of serious injuries for extended periods of time.  Armstrong and Phaneuf missed some time, but in terms of serious setbacks (and compared with all kinds of other teams in the East), they really did not face that kind of roster turbulence.

So heading into this season, as much as most of us like to think (and maybe even really believe) that the goaltending (where have we heard this before?) will be much improved with Reimer and The Monster, and we have some depth on defense, what do we do in case of injuries to our forwards?

If any of our “top-six” guys go down, who steps in?  Will Bozak be better prepared if called upon to center a top line?  Can the “kids” (Frattin, Kadri, Colborne) step in and provide significant quality minutes?

Right now, it’s easy to be confident.  It's summer.  As we get closer to October (and then, April) how will we feel?

Your thoughts?


  1. With Lombardi possibly coming back (as heard this morning - that definitely adds depth at the centre position. On defense you can easily turn to Lashoff (imho is a late D bloomer) Holzer or even Gardiner. Agreed there is no vetern 'filler' but one of 'kids' will take full advantage of any extra playing time, too many of them are on the cusp of an nhl breakout.

  2. Right now most Leaf fans are far from "confident" about the team, but going into this season they have reason for a bit more optimism.

    As for major injuries, let's face it, the Leafs have not had that "star" player, who if they go down, their skates are impossible to fill. Sundin was probably the last player on the Leafs who was off that calibre. So injuries just haven't had a huge impact.

    Players like Brent, Boyce, Grabb, Reimer etc did not get a chance to prove their abilities until they were given a chance (either due to injury, or just lack of talent-depth on the Leafs).

    This coming year the Leafs have improved their forwards with the addition of Connolly and hopefully a healthy Lombardi. Bozak has been relegated to third line center. Guys like Kadri, Frattin and Colborne are already strong prospects and may shine if given some ice-time. Boyce and Crabb (both decent fill-ins) will likely start with the Marlies.

    Depth at defence is great. Heck Komisareck is likely the #7 defenceman, and the Leafs have Lashoff, Gardiiner and even Finger as possible call-ups if injuries happen.

    I'd be more worried with the goalie situation. If Reimer falters or gets injured can the Monster step up and be that #1 guy?? Hope so, but it is a big IF.

  3. An injury to Grabovski or Reimer for 30 games would really hurt, but perhaps Lombardi will be ready to go or the Monster will be able to hold the fort.

    There's lots of depth everywhere else. Bumping Kadri up to top six for a 15 game period seems quite possible. Perhaps you could do the same with Frattin for 5 or 10 games.

    The defence looks fine, an injury will push up Komisarek and Lashoff has proven he can play on the third pairing. Gardiner is also a posibility, as is Blacker or Danny Richmond.

    It's going to take multiple long term injuries to really hurt the team, but if Lombardi really can play (even by Christmas) the worries about top six, especially at centre are much less.

  4. I think you are confusing our lack of an elite forward/centre for a lack of depth. We have a lot of depth. Our skill level at the forward position is so balanced across the board that an injury or two would allow someone else to step in to fill the temporary void without skipping a beat. Injuries to players happen and since most are not of the career/season ending variety, are usually a blessing in disguise, as it gives the younger players a chance to step up for a short while and really see what they need to do to compete at the NHL level. One needs to look no further than Keith Aulie for a prime example. He came up for Dion, struggled, saw what it takes, went down, worked hard, came back up after Beauch was sent packing and ends up being Dion's partner. He flourished and now everyone's all over the Aulie band wagon. In summary, stop your fretting, there's no depth problem and were no worse off than any other team in dealing with the unfortunate arising of any injuries. 'Nough said.

  5. I agree... and will go further to say that... We Have DEPTH at forward... Tons of it... We just don't have top flight talent. Lupul and Connolly are playing outside the roles they fit best on a Stanley Cup contender... If they exceed that we're great up front... Our depth come in the bottom 6 with 10 guys fighting it out... and a very strong 2nd line... and with young talent breaking through to prove if the can fill those "Top Notch" requirements moving forward. There are great things happening in Leaf land

  6. Have to agree with Anon above - we do have depth, just not a lot of top flight talent. We Leaf fans are well known for being "glass-half-full" people when assessing the team pre-season, but unless we see continued improvement from EVERYONE, we ain't going nowhere, as B Dylan once intoned.
    Having said that, Burke's stated plan of building from Goal out does seem to be taking shape, if a little slower than intended. If Reimer and the D stay solid, next year (ie 2012-13) should be the one where the forward lines become top 8.

  7. I think the author makes a good point about injuries. Ignore the defense -- the leafs missed the playoffs by a fair margin last year despite missing essentially no time in their top 6 forwards and those top 6 (aside from bozak) are massively better than anyone who would replace them.

    If the leafs miss significant time this year from grabbo or Connolly or kessel or Kulemin it will really hurt. For the centers especially, the guys coming in to replace their minutes are a huge step down.