Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Maple Leaf lineup is all but set now

The offseason remake of the Maple Leaf roster is more or less complete now with the signing of Christian Hanson. That gives the Leafs 50 players under a pro contract if all junior-aged players are returned to their Junior team with the exception of Nazem Kadri who is expected to make the team. The collective agreement limits teams to signing 50 players to pro contracts.

A few weeks ago 2009 draft pick Jerry D’Amigo quit college after one season to try out for the Leafs. He is not expected to make the team and I also haven’t counted him as one of the 50 pro players so if he is assigned to the Marlies then Burke will have to make another move to reduce his player count. D’Amigo is still junior age and his playing rights are owned by the Kitchener Rangers. So the Leafs have the option to send him to Kitchener for the season.

When you look at the list of players who have a lock on a lineup position, you realize there really aren’t many spots up for grabs. The team is likely to carry 2 goalies, 7 defensemen and 14 forwards. Here are the players pretty much guaranteed a spot:

Goalies (2) – Giguere, Gustafsson

Defensemen (6) – Phaneuf, Komisarek, Beauchemin, Kaberle,

Schenn, Lebda

Forwards (11) – Armstrong, Bozak, Brown, Grabovski, Kadri, Kessel, Kulemin, MacArthur, John Mitchell, Orr, Versteeg

That leaves Gunnarsson, Finger, and Aulie competing for one spot. Up front you have Caputi, Hanson, D’Amigo, Irwin, Dale Mitchell, and Rosehill fighting for 3 spots with Sjostrom starting the season on injury reserve.

On paper the goaltending and defense look to be NHL calibre but not the forwards. However only Orr and Grabovski are older than 25 so this is a young lineup which has not yet reached its potential.

I’m sure some fans are hoping that the Leafs can surprise NHL opponents in the same way the Blue Jays competed this year in the American League East. But will it be enough to make the playoffs and avoid handing Boston another lottery pick? We shall soon see.

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