Friday Mashup: The Other Guys


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



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.

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Nikhil has been writing for MLHS since the site launched in 2008. He misses talking about Mats Sundin and is currently entrenched in enemy territory (Boston) pursuing a doctoral degree. Contact Nikhil here: [email protected]
  • 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,
    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.