NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs Roster Set But Questions Remain
The debate as to who will stick with the big club has been answered, with two rookies making the final cut. In case you have been in a cave for the past month, the two that I am referring too are forward Matt Frattin and defenseman Jake Gardiner.
Many believed, heading into camp, that there was truly only one available spot and that it was going to be between Frattin, Colborne and Kadri to battle for the final position.
Well, Colborne was sent back to the Marlies much earlier than Frattin and Kadri to work on becoming more consistent after showing flashes of what he could be capable of down the road. The battle was starting to look like it would go down to the final days of camp, as Frattin and Kadri both played extremely well during the first couple weeks.
Fate was cruel to Kadri, however, as he went down with a knee injury that is expected to keep him out of the lineup for at least another couple weeks. The job, which some believe Frattin would have won anyway, is his to keep for the time being.
With the additions to the Leaf blue line, Jake Gardiner was expected by many, myself included, to start the year in the minors. However, his play over the course of the preseason proved to many that he may indeed be ready for full-time duty in the NHL.
He is currently slotted in the third defensive pairing alongside Mike Komisarek. Gardiner will need to continue to play at the level he has displayed if he wishes to keep his spot in the Leafs lineup. Keith Aulie, who spent the second half of last season playing alongside Dion Phaneuf, will want to earn himself a spot back with the team.
Although the Leafs' lineup has been set, there are still some gaping holes and questions surrounding the team as the season starts Thursday and October progresses.
The biggest question mark in my mind has been the play of James Reimer. I think everyone in Leafland has been convincing themselves the entire summer there is no way, with his calm, modest behavior, that he wouldn't be the No. 1 goalie.
However, with his play over the first few preseason games, I'm nowhere close to as confident as I was at the beginning of September before camp opened. Will he show the same poise and steady play he did at the end of last season?
The next question that needs to be addressed is, what is going on with our first line? Or should I say No. 2 line?
Connolly has done a poor job of silencing the critics about his injury-prone nature. I mean, really. He's been out over a week with an undisclosed injury after he hurt himself in practice? I hope he at least can act as a temporary fill at center until maybe Colborne gets some seasoning down in the AHL or some epic trade presents itself to GM Brian Burke.
I truly do hope this works out but from what I've seen, the chemistry is severely lacking. I know it is still early and that's why I'm not ruling anything out, but Lupul has been nowhere to be seen while all three of them have yet to really show any dominance in the offensive zone.
Even though the roster is set, the forward lines are far from being a full roster. Here is what I predict will be the Leafs starting lineup come Thursday.
Lupul, Bozak, Kessel
Kulemin, Grabovski, Frattin
Brown, Dupuis, Armstrong
Orr, Lombard, Rosehill
I'm not sure I'm as excited as I was prior to the start of camp, but I suppose we'll just have to wait and see how the Leafs perform.
Now for the Lightning Round
What is going to happen when people actually get healthy and we no longer have suspensions being served?
Are You Comfortable With What The Leafs Forward Lines Are Going To Look Like Opening Night?
What is going to happen with Frattin and Kadri?
Is there going to be enough room in the Leafs' lineup for all these people?
What if Frattin has a start similar to the one MacArthur had last year?
Does Kadri go back down even though he was one of the best looking Leaf forwards on the ice during training camp?
Is Bozak really going to start the year as our No. 1 center again? He looked great in preseason playing with Armstrong, but is he ready for his second chance at that spot?
What happens to Lombardi once he gets healthy?
I leave these questions to you. Goaltending? Connolly? Forwards in general?
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