Somewhere in one of my post Boston Game In 10s I advocated changes to the lineup. A bigger forward on the top line to improve our offensive zone cycles and puck retrieval and have also criticized Wilson for not having a good transition game which partially stemmed from our back end and the inability to make that first pass out of the defensive zone.
Well, I donâ€™t know if you can say that Burkeâ€™s original plan wasnâ€™t/isnâ€™t to bring in a top line forward with size, especially since thatâ€™s what the organization and numerous panelists slated as our No1 need prior to the season. But what you can say is that changes did happen, even if they werenâ€™t exactly by design. Strange as this seems, injuries proved to be a blessing in disguise.
Personally, I thought the changes had to be made via trades. And, I was wrong, but was hardly the only one. How many people really thought those much needed changes could come from inside the organization?
It can be argued Franson only got his â€œwantedâ€ minutes because Komisarek went down with an injury. What is he doing with those minutes? Well, for starters he has improved our breakout pass. He also improved our offensive zone cycles and did the same for the powerplay. This isnâ€™t a knock on Komisarek who, at the time of his injury, played arguably his best hockey in a Leafs uniform. I just think we missed Fransonâ€™s passing more than we currently miss Komisarekâ€™s physicality, especially with Franson playing some solid defensive (and physical) hockey.
A healthy Connolly is a major boost to the offense. His hockey smarts, passing skills and the ability to carry the puck in the offensive zone 5 on 5 and on the PP does wonders for our transition game. Also, his play is vastly improving our special teams.
It can also be argued that Gustavssonâ€™s newly found confidence wouldnâ€™t be here if Reimer stayed healthy. On top of that, the chemistry generated by the younger players is a joy to watch. Matt Frattin and Joe Colborne developed an almost instant understanding on the ice which led to some unbelievable plays and gave us that much needed secondary scoring. Colborneâ€™s maturity level and the simplicity of his plays as well as the size of his frame seems to be very helpful.
But it would be wrong to think those changes werenâ€™t a part of the plan. If by design you mean Burke bringing in Matt Frattin, Tyler Bozak, Joe Colborne and Cody Franson all of which give us tremendous depth throughout the lineup, then yes, it was always a part of the plan. Having the luxury to keep Kadri with the Marlies didnâ€™t just happen, it was part of Burke building model. If this was last season, Kadri would be playing right now. And Iâ€™m not sure that would be good thing for his development or for the big club. Obviously, the management deals with such questions on a daily basis and itâ€™s no coincidence that Kadri is still with the Marlies.
But, here is where the fairy tale ends. We have to ask ourselves what to do when everyone is healthy and back in the lineup. What does this mean for Grabovski and Kulemin in terms of their trade availability? While depth is always needed, Iâ€™m sure Burke and Wilson would be hard pressed to make any changes right now, because fact is, for the first time in a long time, the team is convincingly winning games. Attractive hockey is just a bonus.