Monday Mashup: Center Rumours Heat Up

Monday Mashup: Center Rumours Heat Up

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Good evening! Prepare for a long week of distraction as the Leafs are off until Friday’s tilt with the New Jersey Devils. With Bolland going down on Saturday the team’s strength at centre is about as weak as you could imagine. Not too many people count themselves as big Bozak fans, but with him and Bolland both out, there is a gaping hole down the middle. It’s all but guaranteed this week will bring a deluge of trade speculation, and maybe even a trade to bolster the position. While the Leafs‘ record is still pretty good, it’s difficult to feel optimistic about a team featuring Kadri, McClement and Smith up the middle.

Today’s practice lines were as follows:

Lupul – JVR – Kessel

Raymond – Kadri – Clarkson

Kulemin – McClement – Bodie

Orr – Smith – McLaren

That top line is juicy on paper, but that’s on paper. The transition to center for JvR, who did play down the middle in college but never at the pro level, is far from guaranteed to be a seamless one.

Bolland underwent surgery over the weekend to repair a lacerated Achilles tendon, basically identical to the injury Erik Karlsson suffered last season. In other words, don’t expect Bolland to suit up again until the new year. In Ebner’s post-game from Saturday, he said Bolland was wearing protective socks and still suffered the injury when Kassian’s skate blade found the back of his leg. In other words, this injury was even more a freak incident than usual for that type of play. Hopefully the severity of the injury is lessened as a result, but it’s still too early to know for sure.

Bozak was placed on LTIR meaning he will be out a few weeks, so something must be done to fill the holes at centre. If the team opts to dive into the Marlies roster for help, they could go a few different ways depending on how they want to try and address the situation. Perhaps this is an opportunity for Greg McKegg to show how close he is to NHL-ready, although he should really be left to prove himself in a top 6 role with the Marlies if we’re being fair. I would like to see someone with some offensive ability or upside slotted in ahead of McClement and Smith, but the team may opt for more of a checking type player.

Either way, with no games until Friday followed by a back-to-back), expect a lot of talk around how the Leafs are going to handle the injury situation and a tonne of trade speculation.

Surprise to know one, the Maple Leafs are in the market for a forward, preferably a centre. Not a lot available right now.

— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) November 4, 2013

Some Monday evening links:
Anthony’s Notebook from this morning!
http://mapleleafshotstove.com/2013/11/04/leafs-notebook-november-4/

Dave Ebner has the Globe’s recap from Saturday’s game in Vancouver
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/hockey/leafs-beat/leafs-look-to-put-worst-game-of-the-year-behind-them/article15236747/

Traikos at the National Post has an article about Mason Bang-For-Your-Buck Raymond
http://sports.nationalpost.com/2013/11/02/toronto-maple-leafs-mason-raymond-a-prime-example-of-nhls-salary-cap-disparity/

NHL.com’s story on the Bolland injury, including video
http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=689760&navid=nhl:topheads

JP Nikota has a post up about the Leafs collapsing defensively (no fancy stats!)
http://www.pensionplanpuppets.com/2013/11/4/5059676/collapsing-defensively-leafs-coaching-breakouts-101