: The Star:
Maple Leafs GM Dave Nonis has his work cut out for him
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05-27-2013, 12:09 PM
Join Date: Jan 2008
Originally Posted by
Center Ice Scrum
I will try to find the interview but I clearly remember Carlyle saying at the start of the season that he was assigning each individual player specific roles on the team. From what I remember, he claimed that Grabovski was chosen to be the shutdown line's center because of his ability to go toe to toe with other teams top players. He had the speed to physically shadow the other team's top lines and he had in the past (top +/- on the team for centers) shown that he was fully capable of playing defense more so than say Bozak, and Rookie Kadri.
Down the stretch however, McClement started sliding more and more into that 3rd line center role and Grabo was used as a tweener on the 2nd line and shutdown line. In the playoffs, I believe that Grabo was thrust more into a fore-checking role and out of the shutdown center role and he excelled at it. He fully utilized his speed to get into the fore-check and effectively retrieve the puck back from the Bruins D on many occasions. Biggest issue for him in the playoffs was that he was completely snake bitten and his line mates weren't much help either. He was basically going solo on his line.
Next season, I think McClement will be given that shutdown center role. We will sign another free agent Center to play the 4th line energy role (Boyd Gordon for example) and Grabo will be playing top line minutes unless we acquire a true #1 center option. Bozak is great on the draws but he doesn't have the physical attributes or the skill level of a Grabovski. If we are forced to go into next season with Grabo at #1 center I don't think we will be any worse off.
The key to next season will lay solely on the 2nd line. We need that Lupul - Kadri - Kulemin/ Frattin/ FA line to produce consistently. Top line with Kessel and JVR will be fine and should be able to produce at will essentially. Our 3rd line will be fairly solid if it turns out being Kulemin - McClement - FA/Frattin/Komarov.
Free agents I would freely target are,
Bickell - Play 3rd/4th line tweener, pref around $1.5 mil
Cooke - Play 3rd/4th line tweener, big PKer, agitator, has limited his dirtyness in recent years, probably sign for $2 mil
Clarkson - 2nd/3rd line tweener, get him at $4mil IF we can't sign Bickell
Boyd Gordon - Excellent on the faceoffs and played admirably on a defensive minded Coyotes team last season, will probably come fairly cheap $1.5 or under.
Scuderi - Excellent veteran player who knows his role on a team and can eat big minutes paired with Phaneuf on the top pairing. This also moves Gunnar down to a more suitable 2nd or 3rd pair. Would probably cost us around $3.5-$4 mil.
So bottom 6/ D next season, most ideally:
Clarkson/Bickell - McClement - Kulemin
Komarov - Gordon - Cooke
Phaneuf - Scuds
Gards - Franson
Gunnar - Fraser
We have a tough line up with players, who have played predominantly as role players in the past. All players in the bottom 6 have played significant roles killing penalties on the Leafs or their past teams. This is where they will get their playing minutes. We have a defense that actually looks stable. Top pairing can eat heavy minutes, 2nd pairing can be our offensive pairing and the Gunnar pairing can be our shutdown D pair. Both physical mobile defenceman who prefer to play D more so than handle the puck.
Our enforcers played a big role in our regular season success, why would you take out Orr and replace him with Cooke especially when we already have Komarov? Also, we already have a Bickell, very similar to Kulemin. Gimme Clarkson instead, he's a better threat, can play on the 2nd PP in front if the net and will drop the mits.
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