We are only a month away from the start of training camp and the Toronto Maple Leafs roster looks set after the first week of August.
Brian Burke was criticized at the start of the offseason when he took a trip to Afghanistan that kept him away from Toronto on July 1. However, he has been able to have a respectable offseason of moves.
It all started with the acquisition of John-Michael Liles prior to the NHL Entry Draft. Then on July 2, he signed Tim Connolly to center the first-line. The next day, he made one hell of a deal, acquiring Cody Franson and Matthew Lombardi for Brett Lebda and a prospect. A few more minor moves, and Brian Burke was done.
He re-signed all but one of his restricted free agents, only Luke Schenn doesn't have his name on a contract. That won't be a problem and Schenn will most likely be signed before the month of August is up.
Now, getting to my prediction of how exactly how the Toronto Maple Leafs will look on October 6,2011, when they open the season when they open the season against the Montreal Canadiens.
Burke has said that he is going to with James Reimer and Jonas Gustavsson in net this season, so it's pointless to go on about how the goaltending will turn out. Reimer will be the starter going to start the season with Gustavsson being the backup.
The Maple Leafs strongest position is on defense as they have eight NHL-capable defenseman that will battle it out in training camp. With Dion Phaneuf, Keith Aulie, Schenn, and Liles more than likely making up the top four, and Carl Gunnarson and Franson taking up the final two spots, it looks like that Mike Komisarek will be the odd two out.
The forward corps houses the only two open spots for competition in training camp. The top two lines are set. Only the third line left wing and fourth line center positions will be up for grabs.
Connolly will be centering Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul on the first line. The line of Clarke MacArthur, Mikhail Grabovski, and Nikolai Kulemin will stay intact.
Tyler Bozak will most likely be the third line center, but could be overtaken by Matthew Lombardi if/when he he fully recovers from a concussion. Whoever it is, he will be centering Colby Armstrong, and whoever wins the left wing job, most likely Nazem Kadri.
The fourth line is full of toughness as it will have Mike Brown on left wing, and either Colton Orr or Jay Rosehill on the right. Darryl Boyce, Mike Zigomanis and the newly acquired Phillippe Dupuis will battle for the fourth line job. Bozak could fall into the fourth line job eventually as well.
This is how I think the line-up will look.
First Line: LW- Joffrey Lupul, C- Tim Connolly, RW- Phil Kessel
Second Line: LW- Clarke MacArthur, C- Mikhail Grabovski, RW- Nikolai Kulemin
Third Line: LW- Nazem Kadri, C- Tyler Bozak, RW- Colby Armstrong
Fourth Line: LW- Mike Brown, C- Phillippe Dupuis, RW- Colton Orr
First Pairing: Dion Phaneuf and Keith Aulie
Second Pairing: Luke Schenn and John-Michael Liles
Third Pairing: Cody Franson and Carl Gunnarsson
Starter: James Reimer
Backup: Jonas Gustavsson
There you have it, the Toronto Maple Leafs opening day roster in my opinion. Is it a roster of a team that will make it to the playoffs, or one that will disappoint once again? We'll find out starting in October.