How to resolve the Leafs defence

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

With the news in today that Travis Dermott has signed up for a tasty, tasty small amount, my thoughts turned to how the Leafs will resolve themselves at defence.

For me, there are two main questions that currently make this very difficult as their various answers will produce very different looking results:

1. Is it a lock that Bogosian has been signed to play?

2. How well will Lehtonen’s talent transfer to the NHL?

Plainly, neither of the answers are categorical in nature, but for the sake of considering the permutations I’m going to treat them as such. In my mind, the outcomes for the two bottom pairings look like this:

Is Bogosian a lock?
How good will Lehtonen be? Good Muzzin/Lehtonen
Meh Muzzin/Holl

To deal with these clockwise from top-left…

Lehtonen is good and Bogosian is here to play: If I recall correctly, Lehtonen has gone on record as being happy playing right-side. If he comes over and really shows he wont have a prolonged period of adjustment to the NHL, he’s got to go beside Muzzin or else we are seriously wasting some talent on third-pairing minutes. The casualty is Holl given Bogosian is locked in in this scenario. That might be a bit rough on him for some people given he hardly disgraced himself last year: for me, I wouldn’t mind so much other than the financial waste of benching (we’d have to play 12 forwards only) or waiving (we may well lose him) a $2m player that we have no reason to dislike.

Lehtonen is good and Bogosian is expendable: Otherwise known as Return of the Holl. If Lehtonen is good and beside Muzzin, I’m finding it hard to believe Holl couldn’t beat out Bogosian for the third pairing duties for all that his general style may not be as well suited beside Dermott as Bogo’s. The casualty is Bogosian who might feel pretty pissed off about that, always depending on what conversations were had with him as he signed. Him not being a lock seemingly makes his signing being a bet on the NHL allowing taxi squads to get teams through a compressed season or else, why the fuck did we bother?

Lehtonen is meh and Bogosian is expendable: Even if Lehtonen struggles to show he’s good enough for second pair minutes, I can’t see him not playing. The consequence would presumably be him heading straight back to the KHL and then everybody’s wasted their time, so surely they’d persevere with him on the third pairing for the bulk of the season to see if his adjustment is just a matter of time. That would mean Holl retains his role as sidekick to the TyrannoMuzzin and Lehtonen and Dermott become the third pair with who the hell knows which side will be which? The casualty is Bogosian, please see above. I guess this is the one scenario where I could potentially see Sandin or Liljegren making the line-up: if both Lehtonen and Dermott prove that they can’t play right-side.

Lehtonen is meh and Bogosian is a lock: This is my nightmare scenario. We’d be stuck with a frustrated KHLer and a Cro-Magnon upon whom the last five million years of evolution have seemingly been completely wasted. We would not be better than last year (on D) and the casualty would be Dermott a young guy still with some prospects for developmental who has already shown himself to be an excellent third-pairing option. Let alone, us wasting the opportunity to develop Sandin and Liljegren, not because others are obviously playing better, but because of contractual politics.

So, make of this what you will. As I said at the beginning, this way of looking at things is an oversimplification (two false dichotomies for the price of one!) designed to help me peruse the options. I thought it might be interesting enough to share.

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