For the Leafs there are 3 days in this upcoming summer where, if anything truly productive happens, it will occur:
- The first of those days is of course Day 1 of the draft.
- The second is July 1st, Day 1 of free agency.
- The third is that date in mid-August that arbitration occurs and teams can become either saddled with what may be an inflated one-year deal or release the player with whom they went to arbitration a la Clarke MacArthur circa August 2010.
Now what happens if nothing really happens for Leaf Nation on any of those three days? No big trades, no reeling in of the big free agent fish, and no lucking out with an out of luck arbitration leftover. What are we left with if nothing marquee occurs on any of those dates?
Here is what our opening night roster would look like in my mind:
- Lupul - Bozak* - Kessel
- MacArthur - Grabovski - Kulemin
- Armstrong - Hanson** - Frattin***
- Orr - Brent(Okay, assume he'll be back) - Brown
* = I don't think it would be right to miscast Colborne or Kadri into roles they are not yet prepared for in a similar fashion as was done with Bozak. A more known commodity slotted there as a stop-gap would be better and I would suggest Tim Connolly as a plan B in the event of a failure to sign Richards or acquire, through trade, a true solution to the number one problem. It'll be a nice day when we can slot Bozak into the number three spot...
** = Hanson at this point is not going to develop into the top 6 power foward Burke was holding out for, but he can now be groomed to be a bottom 6 force. Due to the higher offensive upside and addition size he would add I chose him for the three-hole instead of Brent.
*** = Now I know Armstrong is naturally more suited to RW but I don't imagine a transition to LW would be all that difficult for him. The way I see it, either Frattin or Kadri make it to the big club and at the moment Frattin is more physically developed for the rigours of board battles and grinding forechecks. Not basing my assessment solely on what I saw in his one NHL game, as I have seen a good deal of his college play and have also seen Kadri's AHL progression so I feel I can accurately compare the two.
Notes on other players within the organization that could crack the lineup in place of the 12 listed:
Nazem Kadri: It would likely be best-served for him to start the year with the Marlies and find his way back with the big club after 20-25 more AHL games. Somewhat of an arbitrary number, I chose 20-25 more games because if you look at the development path Burke took with Bobby Ryan, the path Kadri is currently on is rather similar and that is how Ryan's development was handled. If he were to make it out of camp it would likely be in a 3rd line capacity instead of Frattin.
Luca Caputi: This past year has be as close to an unmitigated disaster as possible for Caputi. 2010-2011 was his contract year and instead he only played 20 games, 13 AHL, 7 NHL. His year started off slow and was interrupted by callups to the Leafs and then was further interrupted by injury which placed him on the sidelines for the majority of the season only to return for a couple games near the end of the season before being again halted by further injury. If he were to make it out of camp it would likely be in a 3rd line capacity instead of Frattin.
Marcel Mueller: I highly doubt he has any chance of making the big club as he only has 57 North American pro games under his belt and he was not particularly effective in a bunch of them. In his 57 games he scored 14 goals and 19 assists for 33 points. He was 23 games short of a full 80 game AHL season (now 76 games to a season) as he missed time due to a combination of an upper body injury aka concussion I think, 3 games called up to the Leafs and the occasional scratch which isn't uncommon in an AHL season that has 3 in 3s and 4 in 5s. Notably he ended the season with a hat trick (his second of the season) in the last game. Look for next season to be a make or break season for him similar to the way he found a huge jump in his numbers in the DEL after his first couple seasons.
Jerry D`Amigo: I see him in a similar light as I do Matt Frattin except less developed offensively and physically. I highly doubt even a spectacular training camp and pre-season would find him in the opening day line-up. I expect him to be a big contributor to the Marlies if he does manage to adapt, to the AHL, the offensive game he developed in Kitchener.
Any comments, questions, or writing advice is encouraged.