Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Shiv on 01/10/11 at 02:19 PM ET
Heading into tonight’s action, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Line 1 has 94 points on the season, a total that ranks 15th in the league. In fact, the unit’s points total is only a handful away from lines featuring the likes of Joe Thornton, Mike Richards and Anze Kopitar.
Kulemin, Grabovski and MacArthur, of course, are benefactors of a Maple Leafs team that lacks depth up front. On virtually every other team in the NHL, the trio would never see Line 1 ice time Even Strength or on the Powerplay.
They are not first liners.
But what that means is that the Leafs’ Interim Line 1 can form one of the best 2nd lines in the NHL. There is an asterisk attached to that statement. It reads: *IF they can keep playing like this.
In fact, the line has seen almost identical minutes yet been superior to several other elite 2nd lines – when you’re 15th in the league among 1st lines, you will be better than most 2nd lines in the NHL.
What’s more is that Kulemin, Grabovski and MacArthur are being treated like 1st Liners not only by Ron Wilson but also by opposing teams as they have been going up against top defensive pairings exclusively (a match-up reserved for Phil Kessel’s line earlier in the season).
Yet they continue to produce consistently.
With the trio slotted in at Line 2, the Leafs have a potentially formidable Line 3 in the form of Versteeg, Bozak and Armstrong. While Bozak has shown only a fraction of the offensive brilliance from last season, slotting him on Line 3 makes him particularly valuable on the depth chart as he pivots the skilled Versteeg (who slotted in on Line 3 on the Cup-Winning Blackhawks) and gritty Armstrong.
But all of this depends on the line of Kulemin, Grabovski and MacArthur. If they can cement themselves as consistent 2nd Liners season-to-season, Ron Wilson will not have to shuffle the lines and desperately mix and match every night to find offense and the Leafs would have the following forward depth chart:
Provided Burke finds a way to add a Center and a complimenting Winger to that first line, that depth chart certainly looks good on paper.
Just like the Kulemin-Grabovski-MacArthur line, however, the depth chart comes with an asterisk.
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