Toronto Maple Leafs: Does Van Riemsdyk Make Sense as a Center?

Francesco PiacenteContributor IIIJuly 6, 2012

MONTREAL, CANADA - OCTOBER 26:  James van Riemsdyk #21 of the Philadelphia Flyers passes the puck while being defended by Yannick Weber #68 of the Montreal Canadiens during the NHL game at the Bell Centre on October 26, 2011 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  The Canadiens defeated the Flyers 5-1.  (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)
Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images

There have been very mixed opinions on the trade of Luke Schenn to the Flyers for James Van Riemsdyk. Some argue that Van Riemsdyk's health issues make it a ripoff for the Leafs, while others say that the Leafs should have thrown in a top prospect just to acquire a player with Van Riemsdyk's potential.

But upon further evaluation, it is clear that the trade addressed the needs of all parties involved. The Leafs were in need of a skilled forward with size, the Flyers of a defenseman and both players needed changes of scenery.

That being said, if both players play up to their career potentials, the Leafs will have won this deal. Power forwards with Van Riemsdyk's size and ability aren't very common in the NHL, while physical defensemen like Schenn are. Van Riemsdyk has the potential to be a star power forward in the NHL, and as such, the decision to acquire him seems like a good one.

Now, when Van Riemsdyk was acquired, the most exciting thing was the prospect of two legitimate scoring lines, with Van Riemsdyk playing on Grabovski's wing behind the Kessel line.

However, recently, I have heard talk of Van Riemsdyk getting a long look at center in training camp. While he was a center up until the time he was drafted, I don't like the prospect of Van Riemsdyk in the middle. He is, by all accounts, an effective winger, and there's no reason to mess with that.

In my eyes, centers have to have above-average play-making ability. My expectation is that they at least have the ability to effectively distribute to their linemates. If they lack this ability, another one of their line mates has to pick up the slack in the play-making department. Van Riemsdyk is a scorer, a finisher and neither Kessel nor Lupul are the pass-first type.

He is not the finesse passer that will get Phil Kessel to the next level, so why bother?

Size in the top six is necessary, and Van Riemsdyk was a great pickup, but the suggestion of him playing center seems absurd.

His play-making ability is inferior to that of Bozak, which would mean a step backwards for Kessel and Lupul. Bozak seems to spend every shift trying to get the puck to Kessel or Lupul in a good position, and can bury the puck when needed. He is the best option for the Leafs' top line until they land an elite option.

The talk shouldn't be of whether Van Riemsdyk can play center for the Leafs top line, but rather when will Burke finally get us a top line center?