Friday Mashup: The Other Guys

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Tyler Bozak is Toronto’s first line center.  For now and the foreseeable future, Bozak has a stranglehold on a very enviable position between James Van Riemsdyk and Phil Kessel.  While Bozak has occupied a similar spot in the past, Nazem Kadri’s emergence last season and Bozak’s own untimely injuries had set the stage for a tantalizing possibility – the seemingly natural progression of Toronto’s most talented center (Kadri) into a role on the first line.

Unfortunately, it didn’t work out quite like we envisioned.  When both Bozak and Bolland were out of the lineup, Randy Carlyle’s hand was forced.  He had no choice but to try Kadri with the team’s two star wingers.  Carlyle offered quotes suggesting that Kadri’s success in said role could spell an end to Bozak’s undisputed reign.  A promising start (two goals for Kadri on a Dec. 5 win against the Stars) quickly faded along with the team’s fortunes over the following weeks.  Kadri has only scored twice since that night, and Carlyle and co. all but clapped with glee when Bozak returned shortly before the Winter Classic.

Bozak’s timely (but wildly unsustainable) production in recent games likely has reinforced the coaching staff’s opinions on the matter.  Bozak’s leash is extremely long as Carlyle values him highly for a number of reasons of varying merit.  The benefits of giving Toronto’s most talented center (still Kadri) an extended look in this position over Bozak could certainly be debated.  But at this point, MLSE is set on clawing their way into the playoffs and the wheel is still in Carlyle’s hands.  Thus, barring further injuries or suspensions, we are likely seeing the formation of a consistent look for this team’s top nine:

Van Riemsdyk-Bozak-Kessel

Lupul-Kadri-Raymond

Kulemin-Holland(Bolland)-Clarkson

With the lion’s share of offense in recent wins coming from the Bozak line, the coaching staff has begun to call for support from the rest of the cast.  Kulemin and Clarkson have exhibited a burgeoning ability to establish a cycle in recent weeks.  They have done so with centers such as Jay McClement and more recently, Peter Holland.  Both of the gritty wingers have also shown an increased willingness to fire the puck.  Bolland’s hardnosed style of game and vastly superior offensive arsenal (sorry Jay) will mesh well with this pair upon his much-awaited return to the lineup.

As such, it is the least predictable line that will be the deciding factor in Toronto’s success.  Nazem Kadri flanked by Lupul and Raymond will hopefully garner some of the soft minutes that the Lupul-Kadri pair saw last season.  Kadri and Lupul represent two skilled players that are similar in their consistent, passionate desire to win.  They also share a willingness to use their bodies when they get involved in the game.  While Mason Raymond has had a successful year with the Leafs, his game is an inconsistent mix of blazing speed, solid puck skills, and poor decisions.

Both Lupul and Kadri have fallen off from their spectacular point paces of a year ago.  Yet with the eventual return of Bolland, Randy Carlyle will once again have two lines to give the hardest assignments to on a nightly basis.  With the character and talent of Lupul and Kadri up against a lower level of opposition, the Leafs could very well see the return of their vaunted scoring of a year ago.

Friday links:

Dave Nonis with a great interview on TSN

Why are the Leafs so good at shootouts?

Tim Gleason says: “we have to win games”.  Exactly the level of insight expected from a hockey player.

How the Leafs have “turned their fortunes around”.

Randy Carlyle loves Tyler Bozak.  But probably not more than Phil Kessel does.

  • LeafsForLife

    Thank you Nikhil. Good job as always!

  • Zep2

    Kadri 2013-2014

    Tougher assignments, Lupuls game coming back to earth, his aggressiveness has been reduced by suspension, competition from Holland as Leaf BRIGHT SHINNY THING , having Raymond on his wing isn’t helping IMO . 

    Like-Stilll managing to put up points

    Not like–Seems to have lost a step, can’t win face-offs (gotten better recently)

  • Knights2Leafs

    Bozak is very underrated and all due credit to him.  Regardless of who is more “talented” it always made sense to me to have him play with Kessel and have Kadri play with Lupul.  Too much focus on Bozak vs. Kadri.  Let’s just be happy that we seem to have some top 6th depth at center right now.

    In fairness to Kadri, when he was playing at 1C the next best center behind him was Holland.  The Leafs as a whole were easy to shut down.  

    Even when Bozak was back, we got pasted by the Rangers and Carolina and lost 4 in a row.  It was only when Nonis forced RC’s hand by bring Holland back in that the team has suddenly become more balanced at 1C, 2C, and 3C and all 3 of those centers are benefiting and McClement is back to playing his invaluable shut down role.  90% of the posters on this site saw what Carlyle didn’t.

    I am not a Raymond hater as some are on here, but I don’t think he should be on the 2nd line.  I appreciate that RC is not in a position to experiment right now, but I’d really like to see Clarkson with Kadri and Lupul for a few games and if that doesn’t work, then bring Kulemin up.  Raymond would serve the 3rd line better IMO.

  • Burtonboy

    Knights2Leafs I mentioned this yesterday. They have to get Lupul back to the left side. That line has struggled since he was moved to the right . Kadri far prefers to play the right side of the offensive zone and when both or playing on that side its much harder for Kadri to find Lupul in the open.. Carlyle has to bite the bullet and put either Clarkson or Kulie on the that side

  • MaxwellHowe

    Trade Raymond to a team in dire need of offence.  Second,line of Kulimen – Kadri – Lupul.  Third line of Ashton – Holland – Clarkson.  When Bolland returns, Go Holland Bolland Carkson amd move Ashton down to the 4th line with McClement. 
    The Leafs need to see if Kulimen can produce on a scoring line.  Is he worth $3 million plus as a UFA?

  • Mind Bomb

    Good morning Folks !

  • 17Forever

    Burtonboy Knights2Leafs why not …
    Holland Kadri Lupul
    Raymond Jmac Orr

    when Bolland comes back ?
    still speed, Better hands, more gritt, Lupul back on right side and … a 2nd center to take draws if needed. Raymond does play penalty kill and it does give our 4th line some off and possible match up problems. My take anyway.

  • Mind Bomb

    MaxwellHowe  Morning Max yes, I dont know why people are so worried about 3 mil for Kulie, 
    http://www.capgeek.com/comparables/?player_id=181
    He is not overpaid for what he does

  • MaxwellHowe

    Lotta money for a third liner who might break double digits in goals.  Have to question the cap managment there.  Now if he scores playing with Lupul and Kadri on the second line, all power to him.  But if he doesn’t contribute, he might be a valuable trade asset.   Nonis said he wanted to add young players before the draft, I took it as a clear indication of an intent to trade guys liike Gunnar and Kulimen and Raymond and maybe Reimer if the right deal came along.  How else would he obtain young players before the draft?

  • 17Forever

    Knights2Leafs agree with most for sure,  Have always been in Bozaks corner here. He does to much right.
    I commented below about possible line combos with Holland on Kadris left when Bolland returns an Raymond on the 4th line with Jmac, He does kill penalties and offers some offence on that 4th line.

  • Black Phantom

    Man, I watched a bit of the shit show last night, and what
    an asshole Stupidban is, after scoring in OT, he was skating all over the ice like he won the
    cup….tugging on his jersey to the crowd.  I
    would give a week’s pay for somebody to fill him in and watch em scrape
    his blood off the ice.

  • Burtonboy

    17Forever Burtonboy Knights2Leafs I think we should should put Jay on the wing and roll with Bozak ,Kadri ,Bolland and Holland up the middle

  • Burtonboy

    Mind Bomb Bonjers

  • mcloki

    Mind Bomb morning

  • Burtonboy

    Black Phantom Hahahaha you sound familiar . :)

  • Burtonboy

    Real time doesn’t appear to be working this morning

  • Black Phantom

    Burtonboy  Black Phantom why does everyone keep saying that?

  • MaxwellHowe

    Agreed, as much as we rightly hate the Habs, lets face it, it is a very old school organization which values image, and I don’t think this impresses the brass whatsoever.  Subban might want to reign this nonsense in. 
    but if he pulled these stunts as a Leaf – we might have a different perspective.

  • Burtonboy

    Black Phantom Burtonboy You sound just like phaneufenlander

  • Mind Bomb

    MaxwellHowe Younger Players ? they are both only 27,  We are just starting reap the rewards, of outstanding 2nd and Gunnar was 194th drafted, and now we turn around and trade them for what 2nds, that have a what 10 percent chance of ever making the NHL.  

    Doing things like this is why we are where we are.

  • Mind Bomb

    Burtonboy  Black Phantom He does a little, I liked Lander though, he was fine for a year then one day was all mad on here

  • Cameron19

    Zep2 Not winning face-offs is pretty standard for young centers though. Malkin was awful at it for years. Even Crosby took a few years to figure it out and get really good at it.

  • Cameron19

    Mind Bomb Burtonboy  Black Phantom Is he banned or something>

  • Burtonboy

    Cameron19 Zep2 I’m actually very pleased with Kadri’s improvement in that area. He’s done pretty good against much tougher centermen this year

  • Burtonboy

    Cameron19 Mind Bomb Burtonboy  Black Phantom Lander was

  • Rthiffault

    Black PhantomJust watched the highlights on that one. what a disgrace.

  • Black Phantom

    Rthiffault  Black Phantom It was ridiculous….he’s with the right team though…

  • Mind Bomb

    Cameron19 Mind Bomb Burtonboy  Black Phantom  Not sure I think he got mad, that people got mad at him, and just left. If I remember correctly Alec did not come on till after.

  • MaxwellHowe

    I see your point, but the Leafs are not exactly stocked with talent at the prospect level.  and they’re stil  few years away from really challenging the big boys

  • Burtonboy

    MaxwellHowe Show boating can come back to haunt you . The Habs have a couple who might get a good knock in the head if they keep it up . PacMan and Suban

  • MaxwellHowe

    The Bruins – another old school team – were apparently pissed at Marchand for the cupo hoisting indicdent in Vancouver.  There were suggestions he might be traded, but in reality that prick is an effective player, particuarly in the playoffs, so i doubt he ever goes anywhere

  • Burtonboy

    MaxwellHowe Jullian doesn’t put up with that stuff at all. He got called out for the golf swing thing he did against the Leafs a couple of yrs ago and he apologized for it after .

  • Burtonboy

    Mind Bomb Cameron19 Burtonboy  Black Phantom Pretty sure Alec said he banned him

  • Mind Bomb

    MaxwellHowe Aye max but drafting 18 year olds now, that are not high 1st, dont really have a good chance to help us for 5 years, So they Might get help when Bolland is gone Clarkson is gone, Dion is 34 lups is past prime etc. 

    I liked the Holland trade, for that reason, He got an age appropriate player that can contribute now. 

     I get that we still need more talent in the system, but seriously over the last 2 years we have graduated Kadri, Gardiner, Rielly, Ashton/Diamigo, that a good thing, but it does leave are system bare so to speak

  • Mind Bomb

    Burtonboy Mind Bomb Cameron19  Black Phantom Ahh cool then. Must of been after the fact though.

  • Mind Bomb

    Burtonboy MaxwellHowe Gallager :)

  • Cameron19

    Mind Bomb MaxwellHowe I don’t think the system is bare. The Marlies are still dominating. Yea, there’s not much in forward prospects, but we’re not competing with other clubs to see who has the best prospects.

  • Burtonboy

    Mind Bomb MaxwellHowe Brown and Finn will likely be with the Marlies next yr. Verheage ,Johnson and Herzongthe yr after plus we have them Swedisd d men coming over in a yr or 2 . We aren’t completely bare

  • Mind Bomb

    Cameron19 Mind Bomb MaxwellHowe  Exactly. I am not Trading Prime players from our roster for 2nds and 3rds is all I am saying, Kulie and Gunnar stay, unless we can package them for something the upgrades us now, is more age appropriate to our core.

  • Burtonboy

    Mind Bomb Burtonboy Cameron19  Black Phantom I wasn’t on when it all happened but I remember Alec saying he banned him

  • Cameron19

    Mind Bomb Cameron19 MaxwellHowe Having said that, it’s possible you could trade them for picks and then deal those picks for assets who can help now at a later date – like we did with Bolland. BUT, that’s less likely to happen now that the cap will just be expanding, and it really doesn’t get us any further ahead anyways.

  • MaxwellHowe

    Well, there aren’t any forwards anyone is really excited about.  Leivo.  Brown and Johnson have serious quesiton marks regarding size.  I think an organization ,in the age of the cap, has to constantly be refreshing its prospect pool and getting young (cheap) players in the lineup in ordder to support a highly paid top 6 forward and top 4 defensive core.

  • Mind Bomb

    Burtonboy Mind Bomb MaxwellHowe Aye BB there is still talent there, But kadri and Gardiner Rielly, these are prospects way above what we currently have in our system, Even Gauthier, is not a Kadri, Finn while he looks good, is not a Rielly or even a Gardiner and we are not picking up one of those by Trading Gunnar

  • Mind Bomb

    Cameron19 Mind Bomb MaxwellHowe Exactly we are better of Keeping Kulie and Gunnar

  • Rthiffault

    Black PhantomRthiffaultyup, his antics go really well with the toilet seat logo

  • 4evrblue

    That lineup looks good Nikhil, the only change I’d like to see is Raymond replaced by a strong scorer. Raymond to the 4th line for the playoffs with McClement and possibly Holland to get his feet wet would allow us to roll 4 solid lines.

  • Burtonboy

    MaxwellHowe Leivo is not that small . Most of our Prospects are close to or obver 6 ‘ . They have weight gains issues they have to deal with but that will change as they get older

  • 4evrblue

    BurtonboyMind BombCameron19 Black Phantom no responses since you mentioned lander, just saying lol

  • Cameron19

    MaxwellHowe Yea, but the guys on our roster are already younger than most every other group in the NHL. Kessel, JVR, Kadri, Holland, Gardiner, Rielly, Bernier, Reimer and even Phaneuf are all still improving. I don’t see the need to be fearful that we need to cycle in new guys too often with this mix. We need to add more experience and more high-end talent, if anything.

  • Mind Bomb

    MaxwellHowe  As the cap goes up we can find Bottom 6 talent if we need