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The Leafs’ Depth Chart

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:

?-?-Kessel
Kulemin-Grabovski-MacArthur
Versteeg-Bozak-Armstrong

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.

Filed in: NHL Teams, Toronto Maple Leafs, | KK Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: grabovski, kulemin, macarthur

Comments

Alan's avatar

Grabovski is easily the Leafs’ best player. All that time he’s spent with Datsyuk in the offseason seems to be paying off.

Posted by Alan from Atlanta on 01/10/11 at 03:20 PM ET

Shiv's avatar

Grabovski is easily the Leafs’ best player. All that time he’s spent with Datsyuk in the offseason seems to be paying off.

Agreed, Alan. He is becoming a terrific Center. Let’s hope he only progresses.

Posted by Shiv from Toronto on 01/10/11 at 03:21 PM ET

Avatar

I totally agree with both the blogger and the commenter. But I also wonder how practical or useful this information is.

First, what teams wouldn’t, all of a sudden, have a good depth chart on paper if they added two first-line forwards (including a center) without giving anything up? Not many.

Second, Burke has very little in the cupboard or on the roster that could be realistically moved for a top-line center and winger. Not to mention that he would need to move substantial salary to make said players fit under the cap, depleting the team’s depth in other areas.

The Leafs are only a couple pieces away from having a contender. So is virtually every other non-playoff team in the league. And the pieces they’re looking for don’t come easily or cheaply—ask the Flames or the Blue Jackets, who are STILL looking for No. 1 centers after years and years and years of searching.

Posted by Sven22 from Grand Rapids on 01/10/11 at 04:31 PM ET

Shiv's avatar

Hey Sven, I appreciate the comments.

The purpose of the post was not to say that the Leafs were two top line players away from being a contender. If you read the last line of the article you can see that I am not trying to say that at all.

The focus was more on the emergence of Kulemin-Grabovski-MacArthur as a solid potential 2nd line in a Leafs rebuild and how their emergence pushes the Leafs in the right direction.

But Burke still has a lot of work to do even if he finds a top Center.

Posted by Shiv from Toronto on 01/10/11 at 04:37 PM ET

Avatar

Fair enough.

I don’t watch a ton of Leafs games, but from what I’ve seen I’ve been impressed with Grabovski this year. I don’t think he’ll ever be an elite player, but if can put his consistency issues permanently in the past he can be a good first line or dominant second line center for many more years.

I’ve also been really surprised with MacArthur. I figured he’d put up 30 points all year, but he’s on pace for close to 65-70. Good for him.

Posted by Sven22 from Grand Rapids on 01/10/11 at 04:49 PM ET

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.

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