Toronto Maple Leafs: Grabovski, MacArthur and Kulemin The Future Second Line?

Drew WestCorrespondent IDecember 17, 2010

TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 06: Clarke MacArthur #16 of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrtaes a goal by Nikolai Kulemin #41 against the Buffalo Sabres at the Air Canada Centre on November 6, 2010 in Toronto, Canada. The Sabres defeated the Maple Leafs 3-2.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

I think all Toronto Maple Leafs fan would agree that the line of Mikhail Grabovski, Nikolai Kulemin and Clarke MacArthur have by far been the best line for the Toronto Maple Leafs so far this season. They have provided consistent scoring and sound defensive play, displaying having the perfect mix of first and third line elements.

As it stands today, these three players are among the top five in Maple Leafs scoring:

1) Clarke MacArthur—nine goals, 15 assists, 24 points, minus-1

2) Mikhail Grabovski—10 goals, 12 assists, 22 points, plus-2

3) Kris Versteeg—10 goals, 10 assists, 20 points, minus-13

4) Phil Kessel—12 goals, seven assists, 19 points, minus-10

5) Nikolai Kulemin—10 goals, nine assists, minus-1

As you can see, the line of Grabovski, Kulemin and MacArthur have very similar stats, which shows how balanced a grouping this truly is. They seem to be co-dependant, not able to perform to their ability unless the whole line is giving it their all. Their plus/minus ratings are also among the top for Leafs forwards, which shows their dedication to be being two-way players.

If this line continues their current scoring pace, they will easily top the likes of Kessel and Tomas Kaberle, players who were considered by most to surely lead the Maple Leafs in scoring by season's end. If their consistency continues, Grabovski, Kulemin and MacArthur could all have career years, with potential offensive totals such as:

Clarke MacArthur—22 goals, 40 assists, 62 points

Mikhail Grabovski—26 goals, 32 assists, 58 points

Nikolai Kulemin—26 goals, 22 goals, 48 points

These are exactly the kinds of offensive numbers a competitive team expects from their second line. Unfortunately, these are the kinds of totals the Maple Leafs have seen from their top line in recent years, specifically since the departure of Mats Sundin.

The Grabovski line has really developed into a cohesive unit, giving Brian Burke a seemingly solid second line to move forward with as he continues to add pieces to this puzzle he calls his team. This will make his job a little easier as the team grows and begins to show their general manager who fits in with his formula and who doesn't.

We can all agree that the next step to making the Toronto Maple Leafs a competitive team is adding top line players to complement and take the defensive pressure off of Kessel. We all know the scoring potential of Kessel, he just won't be able to reach it until his linemates are upgraded from Tyler Bozak and Colby Armstrong. Nothing against these players, but they should be along side the likes of Versteeg, providing the Leafs with a very effective third line.

Until Burke is able to obtain a center and a left winger who can consistently put up 70-plus points a season, the Leafs will have great difficulty jumping over teams such as Carolina, New York, Tampa Bay and Ottawa for a playoff spot.

How Burke gets these type of players is beyond me, which is why i'm not a general manager. Although, don't be surprised if first round picks continue to be traded away in an attempt to make this team an immediate contender. As we all know, Burke dove in head first by trading away two very important draft picks and I can't see him turning back now.

Regardless of how Burke goes about making this a playoff team, Leafs nation can rest assured that some pieces of the puzzle are falling into place. The line of Grabovski, Kulemin and MacArthur have been fun to watch and provide the physical presence and scoring ability the Leafs need to be successful.

Let's hope the rest of the pieces come together in the near future so we can begin to watch this team slowly grow into a cup contender.


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