Camp is around the corner, the Leafs are playing golf, and like many of us, Ron Wilson is projecting line combos already. The Leafs head coach voiced to the media on Tuesday that right now he envisions a lineup with Lupul – Connolly – Kessel, MacArthur – Grabovski – Kulemin, and Kadri – Bozak – Armstrong going into the season.
Of course this is preliminary, but it’s good news for Leafs fans nonetheless, and even more so for Nazem Kadri, who looks to finally become a National Hockey League mainstay.
Competition for Kadri’s wing position will likely come by way of Matt Frattin and Luca Caputi (who seems to have become somewhat forgotten this off-season.) However, the general feeling around Leafs Nation for a while has been that it’s truly Nazem’s spot to lose. Wilson’s comments today just confirmed it.
Another spot possibly up for grabs would be Tyler Bozak’s third line center job. In the same media scrum today, Brian Burke mentioned that Matthew Lombardi is free of concussion symptoms and working out hard, though his status for camp is still in the air. Jonas Sigel of TSN1050 added that the speedy center has actually begun skating solo recently.
Keep in mind, this guy has been out of action for a year. Working his way into shape for NHL competition isn’t just going to happen overnight. It’s a process, and there could be some setbacks. But right now it’s looking like he’s on the road to recovery – we’ll see how it turns out.
If Lombardi eventually forces his way into the lineup, he’ll likely be gunning to slot into the lineup over Bozak. So then, where exactly does that leave #42? The Ricoh most likely.
Moving Bozak to the fourth line might make sense, but with Zigomanis or Boyce providing a much more ideal situation there it might not be a wise choice. Even shifting him over to the wing could be an option, if there were any openings. There aren’t.
All of this competition is a good thing for the team, no doubt. And with injuries coming it’s likely that we’ll see all of Kadri, Bozak, Lombardi, Colborne, Frattin and Caputi at various points in time. The fourth line will write it’s own story, but that’s a post for another day.
The beauty of all of this is the fact that with so many short-term contracts, if any of these guys can’t cut it in their audition with the team over the next season or two, they’re gone. Talk about separating the men from the boys.