Leafs Place Stock in Core, add Depth.

Leafs Place Stock in Core, add Depth.

By Anthony M.

With the dust settling around free agency, it’s clear adding depth was the top priority for the Toronto Maple Leafs management. For several years, the Leafs have lacked the kind of depth (and many other things) that could make them an eastern conference contender. On July 1st, the club took significant steps to address this issue. While other teams made statements towards their future gobbling up the larger names available, the Leafs made a statement of their own. Leaving the top two lines intact sent a message to all of Leafland and teams elsewhere of just how much faith they have in their core, including number one centre Tyler Bozak and forward David Clarkson.

Say what you will about these two players but I believe them to be important pieces to this team’s future success.

Here’s why.

Firstly, Bozak has significantly improved his game over the last four years with the organization. In just 58 games last year, he had 48pts (19G, 30A), a career high in the NHL. In the lockout shortened season, he put up 28pts (12G, 16A). If you extrapolate that over a full 82 game season, he could have done even better finishing with 56pts (24G, 32A). Centremen David Backes and Derek Stepan finished with 57pts this past year. Obviously, this example leaves room for error, but it speaks to Bozak’s potential as a number one centre.

As for Clarkson, sorry to break the news but during his NHL career he’s hit the 30 goal mark once. His next best season was in 2009 when he finished with 17. To expect that kind of production alongside an albeit talented but young Nazem Kadri is unreasonable. Let’s not forget how Clarkson started his time in Toronto: with a big fat suspension. In all, he played 60 games and was never able to get his legs under him and adapt to his new role. Despite that, I have high hopes for his sophomore season with Toronto. Maybe he can take a page out of the Toronto Blue Jays’ book: after faltering last year in a season full of expectations to this season where, up until a recent slump, they held first place in the AL East, their turnaround has been impressive, to say the least. As we know, slumps in hockey come and go, expect Clarkson to have a bounce back season.

While the top two lines have remained intact, the bottom six is completely revamped, with the exception of Peter Holland and Troy Bodie.

Managements attempt to improve the team from the back up will have to be tested, but from what I can see this team will be a much faster, grittier and ultimately harder to play against. Basically, more like the team that took the Boston Bruins to game seven in 2013. It wasn’t a tough decision to bring back forwards Matt Frattin and Leo Komarov. Komarov alone has a lot to offer. He didn’t contribute much offensively in Toronto (9pts, 4G, 5A), but the pesky forward led Moscow Dynamo (KHL) in points with 34 in 52 games this year. His offensive upside has yet to be tapped in the NHL, but if placed on the third line alongside Peter Holland and Frattin, the group as a whole could be extremely productive.

Another addition, Petri Kontiola, was originally drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks 196th overall in 2004. The Finnish centremen who can also play wing will likely do so with Mike Santorelli in the middle and Troy Bodie on the left. Kontiola, who’s found his offence recently in the KHL has quickly asserted himself as a big game scorer. In 25 playoff games with Chelyabinsk Traktor, Kontiola had 19 points (10G, 9A). His ten goals made him the top scorer in the playoffs that year. If he can hone his skills in the NHL, he will make for a solid fourth liner.

Worst case scenario he can handle the interviews for Phil Kessel.

Jokes aside, Kontiola has exceptional vision and passing abilities.

There’s still a lot that needs to happen with between now and October 8th but just for fun here’s how I see the lineup combinations shaking down.

van Riemsdyk – Bozak – Kessel

Lupul – Kadri – Clarkson

Komarov – Holland – Frattin

Bodie – Santorelli – Kontiola

On defence, things are a little trickier. Dion Phaneuf will likely have to play on the left side with Stephane Robidas on the right. That will take some adjusting for Phaneuf who’s much stronger where he is. Assuming he does make the switch, here’s how it’ll look.

Phaneuf – Robidas

Rielly – Polak

Gardiner – Franson

What do you think, do the new additions of Komarov, Frattin, Santorelli, Kontiola, Robidas and Roman Polak make this team better? Or should the top six be shaken up?

COMMENTS

WORDPRESS: 10
  • comment-avatar

    At this point this team is worse than last year’s team, and that team didn’t make the playoffs. Considerable weaker down the middle, and the same can be said for the 3rd and 4th lines.

  • comment-avatar
    LeafsFan43 4 years ago

    Good article, anthony. You seem to really know that the leafs have to pull the good things from last season. They almost made the playoffs, right? With a few tweaks, they can be contenders.

    I also agree with u on clarkson and his situation.

  • comment-avatar

    Personally I like the additions but I still do believe we still need a top pairing to play along side Phaneuf and trade Franson for that.

    Phaneuf – TBD
    Reilly – Robidas
    Granberg-Polak

    Put together a package to Winnipeg including either Kadri or Riemer or both and make a run for Kane.

    JVR-Bozak-Kessel
    Kane-Holland-Lupul
    Komarov-Santorelli-Clarkson
    Brodie-Kontiola-Frattin

  • comment-avatar
    dave in bolton 4 years ago

    On a side note is anyone else beside myself really enjoying the 590 mourning show with out Brady and Walker hosting and Enese as his side kick. The show is so much better with Walker as the main host.

  • comment-avatar
    Antonio 4 years ago

    Bozak is NOT a #1 centre – and never will be. Sorry, diehard Leaf fans.

    The problem that is Dion Phaneuf remains – thus their defense will continue to suck.

    They’ll have to pray that Bernier remains healthy and can stand on his head. If he gets injured or plays just mediocre, the team will languish near the bottom of the league.

    Nonis has done nothing to improve this team.

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    Drumanchor 4 years ago

    Have to agree with Antonio. A long time until October, but if the team is essentially the same as last years, then how could the fan base possibly be excited?

    At the risk of sounding like the typical knee-jerk reaction fan, but until the captain is shipped out, I just can’t see myself paying attention to the team at all.

  • comment-avatar
    Dave in Bolton 4 years ago

    will only be 10 games in and Ray Shero will be the next General Manager of the Leafs with Bylsma as the head coach

  • comment-avatar
    McLaughTalk #1 Fan 4 years ago

    Wow this guys is a great writer with amazing insight. #tsngetonthis #newanchor

  • comment-avatar
    Antonio 4 years ago

    @Dave in Bolton
    I hope you’re right. Shero and Bylsma would be an huge improvement.

  • comment-avatar
    Dave in Bolton 4 years ago

    if anyone from TSN 1050 is reading this website from the janitor to the programming director please hire Andrew Walker as the new 4pm host. he would give McCown a run for his money.