Tonight's game will be the last one before the Leafs try to work their way down to a 23 man roster. Here's a look at who's left with the Leafs:
Forwards: Nik Antropov, Mark Bell, Jason Blake, Boyd Devereaux, Robbie Earl, Mikhail Grabovski, Nik Hagman, Ryan Hollweg, Nik Kulemin, Jamal Mayers, John Mitchell, Dominic Moore, Alex Ponikarovsky, Kyle Rogers, Matt Stajan, Alex Steen, Jiri Tlusty, Jeremy Williams. (18)
Defence: Carlo Colaiacovo, Jeff Finger, Jonas Frogren, Tomas Kaberle, Staffan Kronwall, Pavel Kubina, Richard Petiot, Luke Schenn, Jaime Sifers, Anton Stralman, Mike Van Ryn, Ian White. (12)
Goalies: Vesa Toskala, Curtis Joseph, Justin Pogge. (3)
The Leafs have to be at 23 players by Wednesday and will likely be set by Monday for their last preseason tune-up. So who goes? Goalie is simple because Pogge gets sent to the Marlies. That leaves 21 spots open. Who fills those 21 spots?
On the backend the decisions are much more difficult. Kubina, Kaberle, and Finger are locks but two of them are hurt and Finger will miss at least the first week of the season if not more. Due to these injuries and the fact that Carlo is made of glass the Leafs could start the season with 8 defencemen. However, they might go with nine in case Schenn has to go back to junior before Finger has recovered. Carlo Colaiacovo is in the lineup on the second pairing. Petiot and Sifers are definitely Marlies to start. That leaves 6 defencemen fighting for 2 playing spots and two in the pressbox.
Luke Schenn is not staying for the entire season but nine games takes us through the October 28th date against the Lightning. Finger will have likely had almost 5 weeks to recover from what is supposed to be a slight injury so there should be no worries from that angle.
Fletcher is clearly looking to deal Van Ryn so I think it's safe to assume that he'll stay with the big club so as to not lose him to waivers. Same with Ian White. Frogren has improved with each game and was brought over to play in the NHL. He''ll stick. That gives us eight defencemen staying with Staffan Kronwall unaccounted for until now: he stays or he's lost to waivers. Stralman can still pass through waivers so he'll be told to be the big dog on the back-end with the Marlies until some space can be cleared with the big club. He might get a little upset but if the situation is explained then I expect him to be a professional about it. The other option I can see is maybe Van Ryn being stashed on the Marlies in the hopes that no one will try to pick him up as he passes through waivers.
At forward, the following are locks in my mind: Nik Antropov, Alex Ponikarovsky, Jason Blake, Matt Stajan, Alex Steen, Jamal Mayers, Nik Hagman, Nik Kulemin, Mikhail Grabovski, and Dominic Moore. That fills 10 of the 12 spots. One of the reasons that Wilson has been using White at forward was to see if he could get away with carrying only 12 forwards to start the season until some moves were made.
Robbie Earl, Jeremy Williams, and Kyle Rogers will go down to the Marlies leaving five forwards fighting it out for two spots. Jiri Tlusty is the only one of the five remaining players that doesn't have to clear waivers to go to the Marlies so he might be asked to take a knee for the good of the team. Fletcher will have to make some big decisions as Devereaux and Bell are two guys that I think (definitely in Devo's case) can contribute this year. Bell even wore an 'A' last night so it's tough to think that they'll be risked on waivers. Mitchell has had a monster camp but I am not sure that he'd be at risk going down. Hollweg will likely stick which makes me wonder what the Leafs might do with the injuries to keep a couple of extra forwards up in an attempt to give the Silver Fox some time to manoeuvre.
There are definitely some difficult decisions. What are your thoughts?