Predicting the 2014-15 Toronto Maple Leafs' Forward Lines
The Toronto Maple Leafs' forwards were successful in many ways, yet disappointing in others in 2013-14.
While the top line scored on a consistent basis throughout the season, the second line could not match this consistency. The third line changed a lot over the course of the season.
In the end, there was no real fourth line to speak of by the end of the campaign. There could be as many as six new faces among the Leafs' forward group next year.
Let's take an early look at what the Leafs' forward lines may look like in 2014-15.
1st Line: James Van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel
Toronto's first line was one of the better ones in the NHL. Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk had great offensive seasons in 2013-14.
Kessel and Van Riemsdyk combined for 141 points last season and led the team in scoring. JVR really took a leap forward, as he was great at the Sochi Olympics as well as in the regular season.
Tyler Bozak had a respectable 49 points and earned them in just 58 games. He's not the prototypical first-line centre that most NHL teams seek.
However, the chemistry between these three is undeniable. Heading into 2014-15, they form a legitimate No. 1 line, although an upgrade at centre—while not likely—could transform the group into one of the top three or four units in the entire league.
2nd Line: Joffrey Lupul, Nazem Kadri and Unknown
There is a good chance that David Clarkson could be the second-line winger here, but that would be a stretch.
Clarkson's contract is less than ideal. The team would be much better off if he's slotted on the third line than the second. He does not score on a consistent enough basis to play in the top six.
Talented winger Joffrey Lupul was injured for stretches of this past season. He and centre Nazem Kadri have displayed some decent chemistry at times.
Kadri seems poised to make another move forward in 2014-15, displaying the potential to be a very good second-line centre in Toronto.
The Leafs would do well to retain Mason Raymond. The pending unrestricted free agent would be a good fit on this second line. He's a speedy and versatile winger who can play in a number of roles.
3rd Line: Peter Holland, David Clarkson and Unknown
The Leafs' third line changed constantly in 2013-14. If the Leafs can sign restricted free agent Peter Holland and pair him with David Clarkson, there would be a solid base for a third line.
Holland, the former Guelph Storm star, had flashes of very good play in 2013-14. He has good size and soft hands. He's yet to score consistently at the NHL level, but at 23 years old, this is not unprecedented.
Clarkson needs a complete reset heading into 2014-15. Last season was a forgettable campaign.
Pending UFA Dave Bolland would look good at centre on this line, but the National Post's Michael Traikos suggests his likely contract demands may preclude the Leafs from fitting him into the 2014-15 lineup.
A young winger from within the organization would make sense alongside Holland and Clarkson. Josh Leivo could be a possibility next season.
4th Line: Colton Orr, Unkown and Unknown
The Leafs' fourth line was ghost-like on many nights. There were rumours that it existed, but it was nowhere to be found on the ice.
With the amount of injuries suffered by the team, head coach Randy Carlyle had few legitimate NHL options on several evenings.
Given the number of players that likely won't be returning next year, projecting this line beyond Colton Orr is difficult.
Orr may not even be back, but it would be surprising if the Leafs began the 2014-15 season without one heavyweight enforcer.
Youngsters Carter Ashton and Jerry D'Amigo are pending restricted free agents that could fill these spots.
The Leafs may have to look outside the organization to complete their fourth line, with veteran free agents Ryan Jones or Steve Bernier as possibilities.