With the Leafs now thin at center, due to the Bolland and Bozak injuries,the team is now in a precarious situation. There is now a significant drop-off at center once you get beyond Kadri.
Since there are limited options for stop-gaps who can be ready to fill in from the Toronto Marlies, and on-going cap-space issues the Leafs are in a conundrum. The market is also quite thin for a cheap rental. Though, Vinny Prospal's name has been mentioned, cap implications might deter that from happening anyways.
This was sort of where some of us may have originally imagined what the Leafs would do anyway, when they originally acquired JVR in a trade for Luke Schenn. Put him at Center, between Kessel and Lupul. Of course, the Leafs had other intentions in keeping Bozak there and doing other things like acquiring Bolland.
JVR has been thriving as a winger with the Leafs. His strong skating, slick hands and big body seem to make him a natural for that position. Probably only Clarkson and Kulemin are close to him in his ability to be a net presence during the game.
At any rate, the injuries a silver-lining for JVR, as a 1st line Center experiment. In Philly, he was also mostly featured as a winger, because of their depth at Center when he was there.
However, JVR spent two years playing at least partially as a center during his time at UNH, where he put up very good numbers.
JVR represents the possible 1C the Leafs have been looking for since the departure of Mats Sundin. A skilled, big-bodied scoring threat. This season, he's also been quite capable putting up a 50% on the faceoff circle. His projections also shine quite well there.
|Year||Team||FW||FO||FO win %|
|Year||Split||FW||FO||FO win %||50%|
Kadri has had mixed success with JVR and Kessel. But, he might be better fit to lead the 2nd wave of attack with Clarkson and Kulemin/Raymond.
I for one, welcome this experiment! The Leafs have been searching for what seems like forever now, trying to find the right kind of 1st line Center. Unlike most other NHL positions, capable 1st line centers with size and skill, don't grow on trees, and aren't easily acquired. Let it fail before hitting the panic mode and running out to sign Prospal or, trade for a rental.
Since Bozak is typically a visual plague on the 1st line, aside from seeing him have some success in the faceoff dot,I don't see how this experiment can really go awry. The Leafs have always had a duo on the first line, rather than a trio. But JVR is no doubt, a much more skilled player than Bozak. His net presence and ability to do other things Bozak can't shouldn't be in peril. There may be a bit of an adjustment for JVR as a 1st line Center, but, he seems more than capable enough to do the job.
If JVR, Lupul and Kessel can have instant chemistry over the course of Bozak's return, it would be hard for Randy Carlyle to break it up.
I can't remember a time when the Leafs had a center actively involved in the play between Kessel and Lupul. Bozak is usually several strides behind them.