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08-15-2012, 07:39 AM
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Originally Posted by VanIslander View Post
This may be the first time a 25-man squad has had no extra forwards! Can the roster handle it? With injuries and suspensions, the forward core might have to roll three lines at times. Certainly, there's enough grit with Shayne and Chad, plus Geoff brings a chippy edge. Jordan, Mike and Mud are responsible defensively. There is no shutdown line, instead each line is balanced. Same with offense. In terms of scoring the team really has to rely on scoring from every line, by committee, as Russ and Erik are inconsistent, and Barry a youthful three-year peak followed by three decent seasons, probably the closest thing to reliable scoring on this squad. The top line has real chemistry with Billy bringing size and passing, Barry relaying the puck and shooting and Geoff crashing the boards, net and open spaces for passes and loose pucks. The line ought to create considerable pressure in the offensive zone, though it might be caught on some odd man rushes against with Harris in deep and Geoff famous for going out of position for a hit or opportunistic play. The second line is a bit more puzzling, with Russ' speed and passing a bit lost without a mate to rush with. Jordan will responsibly play the middle and Corson will power his way up ice and to the net and into traffic, but neither Corson nor Staal have the two-on-one counterattack potential that Russ brings. For this reason alone Russ may be better suited to the top line. The playoff experience of this forward group is noteworthy, with heroes in Geoff (109 pts) Shayne (87 pts), Russ (83 pts) and Mike (78 pts) with a couple of significant postseasons for Barry, Billy and of course there's Mud. This forward core is battle ready come the playoffs, no doubt about that. Whether they can score at the pace of other clubs in the regular season with no extras to call upon, rolling three lines at times, is an open question. This is a forward core that likes scrappy, broken plays and desperate, tight hockey. It is not built to protect leads or build them, for that matter. Expect them to be in every game, certainly with lots of intensity and effort from the top three lines.

The blueline is a shambles in terms of experience and reliability. If the forward core expected the backend to be a steadying influence, their rock, they are sadly mistaken. Karlsson and Letang are full of fire and as reckless as some of the forwards, but with a lot less experience. Karlsson's one regular season of excellence and two lesser years are supposed to carry the top pairing of this club when the Blackhawks career points leader among defenseman sits as an extra skater? His 514 points in Chicago has got to be worthwhile experience for this blueline, not to mention his 56 points in 112 NHL playoff games. Karlsson may have won the Norris but he followed that up with one point in the playoffs and critics galore. Erik is not ready for the role of top pairing on an all-time squad like this. Fortunately, Murray is. Here's hoping coach Ruel will ignore the GM's initial efforts and play Karlsson in a much lesser role down the stretch and into the playoffs. Letang has two significant postseasons and his pairingmate is as steady an influence as he needs. The third pairing is a real heart and soul pair, with Marsh a high energy battler and Cote a steady and consistent defender. Sweeny and Cote are as even keel on the backend as Staal and Ridley will be up front. This team needs that as it is full of fire and brimstone, though on bad nights it'll seem like just piss and vinegar.

The goaltending is interesting, with Quick bringing two good regular seasons before one amazing year in both the regular season and playoffs. He is a one-year wonder with a three-year peak and limited career. His backups include Price, who has four good regular seasons and three all-star games to atest for it, and Johnston, who had six winning seasons as a Bruins backup, and went a solid 6-1 in his starts on their 1972 Stanley Cup championship run. Expect Johnston to see a few starts in the regular season and certainly get a long look to dress as one of the two goalies in the playoffs.

Head coach Ruel is the Jonathan Quick of coaches: one awesome year in which he won a divisional title and led the team to the Stanley Cup championship, plus two decent seasons (a decade later) in which he guided the team to divisional titles only to falter early in the postseason. Assistant coach Boucher adds little in terms of top level experience or success, as he has two years of NHL experience with one conference finals run to his credit. But he also brings two Memorial Cup runs and a third year as top coach award winner in his junior league. He also assistant coached Canada to a couple of gold medals in U-18 and U-20 tourney play. Both Ruel and Boucher hope to catch lightning in a bottle with this line-up.

It's a high risk squad of risk-taking veteran forwards, experience-limited risky offensive defensemen and goaltending which sports a one-year wonder, a decent 3-year peak and a backup veteran with enough success to fill the gaps in the long, regular season, if not beyond. Roll the dice.
Charles Tobin is also a forward, having played all three positions plus defense.

Coaching. The duo of Ruel and Boucher have a history of winning and innovative coaching. Ruel developed numerous HHOF defensemen plus he played young defensemen as forwards - Roberts, Savard, Watson, Vadnais, Robinson, Bouchard, Chartraw. Hint about Karlsson in certain situations. Boucher turned around teams at all levels winning withe the players on hand. He has extensive international experience and a university background. Boucher is also on of the few NA coaches that coaches the 1-3-1. Key attribute when coaching against Team Sweden.

Goaltending. Young goaltenders have often been the cornerstone of hockey dynasties. Short list - Clint Benedict, bad 1915 SC final, Terry Sawchuk, Plante/Hodge, Ken Dryden, Smith/Resch, Fuhr/Moog, Roy.Quick and Price, in their short careers have significant success and honours.

Ed Johnston is an ideal third goalie. He coached in the NHL so he will have value as a player/coach, mentoring the young goalies.

Defensemen. MLD - no one else has a Norris winner on their roster and a legit contender. Rather play with than against such a team.
The pairings are balanced.LHS/RHS so moving the puck will be efficient. Player selections were based on blueprints of successful teams. Late forties Leafs, Mid sixties Canadiens all featured young and relatively inexperienced dmen. This team has a better balance between youth and experience than the 1986 Canadiens did.

Forwards. Your Billy Harris concern is interesting for a RW raised in the Leafs organization. Basic issue was that Harris was not the scorer that was projected. His discipline,defense and positional play was strong.Aggressive forechecking from the centers will drive the four lines. Four lines with the skills necessary to execute a standard defensive template. This is the MLD so the natural offensive talents or high end defensive players are not available, leaving the Larouche, Cloutier types, the injured or troubled. Still, the forwards have a history of scoring and producing.

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