Toronto Maple Leafs: Will James Van Riemsdyk Really Center the First Line?

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Toronto Maple Leafs: Will James Van Riemsdyk Really Center the First Line?
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Going into this summer, the Toronto Maple Leafs were expected to be one of the bigger players on the trade front and free agency, with major needs for a top-line center and a starting goaltender. 

Now halfway through July, the only significant addition has been former Philadelphia Flyers forward James Van Riemsdyk, who was traded to the Maple Leafs for defenseman Luke Schenn. 

Van Riemsdyk's natural position is on the left wing, which is where he's played in Philadelphia for the majority of the past three seasons. 

Despite the obvious positional differences, it was announced earlier this week that Van Riemsdyk would be playing the role of No. 1 center in Toronto. As the article outlines, Van Riemsdyk has played center in the past, but not in the NHL

Although this is definitely an interesting development for Toronto, is it the right move? 

While I'm sure some believe Van Riemsdyk can excel as a center, let's look at the facts. 

Toronto has fallen short of the playoffs for the past seven seasons. The fanbase, team and management are getting increasingly frustrated and demanding. It is my belief that if the Maple Leafs miss the playoffs next season, Brian Burke will be shown the door. 

So with so much riding on this season, should the team be putting it all on an unproven player playing a position he's unfamiliar with?  

In Van Riemsdyk's three seasons with the Flyers, he took just 10 faceoffs and won only two. While those numbers will obviously improve in a full-time role, it's still cause for concern. 

Will James Van Riemsdyk really be the top line center next season?

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If a No. 1 center loses the faceoff, then he gives the opposing team possession, increasing their chances of scoring and decreasing the chances for the home team. 

So is that a position Brian Burke is willing to put the team in, or is he using this announcement as a strategic play to pick up a top center?

Typically, Burke is the kind of guy who does what he says. If he claims Van Riemsdyk is his plan, he will likely follow through with it.

But it is also very possible that he is using this to make potential trade partners believe the need for a No. 1 center, such as Ryan Getzlaf or Patrick Marleau, is not there and possibly reducing the demanded return in the process.

One thing is for sure, the Toronto Maple Leafs will definitely be worth keeping an eye on this summer, as they could still be in the hunt for a top center and are surely looking to fill the gaps in net.

 

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