It’s a sad fact that the Maple Leafs have yet to have a single game all season with a fully healthy lineup. Hyman and Dermott started the year injured, and by the time they got back the Leafs had already begun a rotating carousel of injuries to the likes of Tavares, Marner, Johnsson (twice), Muzzin (twice), Rielly, Kerfoot, Ceci, Mikheyev, Andersen, and probably some others I can’t remember off the top of my head.
With the news that Ilya Mikheyev is now back at 100% health (see below), the Leafs are getting close to being 100% healthy as a roster. Johnsson’s status is pretty much the only question mark now, but with how much things are being pushed back to the COVID-19 virus, he may well be fully recovered if/when the league tries to resume the season in some capacity.
I’m not even going to bother trying to figure out an ideal roster that fits under the cap because I’m pretty sure they’d have some trouble with it. They had staved off having a short 20 man roster only because they always had an injury.
So, let’s have some fun!
Zach Hyman - Auston Matthews - Mitchell Marner
William Nylander - John Tavares - Ilya Mikheyev
Andreas Johnsson - Alexander Kerfoot - Kasperi Kapanen
Kyle Clifford - Pierre Engvall - Jason Spezza
The top two lines I think you can play around with depending on who’s playing well together. You could move in Johnsson up and Mikheyev down, but I’m starting with this setup for a few reasons:
- None of the “locks” for the top two lines have been perfect during the year in any configuration that Babcock or Keefe have tried, but they have been putting up points. I’m sticking Hyman with Marner to balance their types and “willpower” (your words, Mitch, not mine).
- Nylander and Tavares have been pretty wonderful together, and Mikheyev looked good with Tavares in his sort time there. He doesn’t have to worry about points, really, he just has to fit in with them.
- Give that third line more punch. Johnsson is a much better player on offense than Engvall, and he and Kapanen played well together on the same line last year.
- Engvall in a more reduced role can swap center duties with Spezza, and I really like that as a fourth line. Engvall is fast and has a shot, Spezza can dazzle in limited minutes, Clifford can throw his weight around. You can give that fourth line more than bare minimum minutes.
Morgan Rielly - Tyson Barrie
Jake Muzzin - Justin Holl
Rasmus Sandin - Travis Dermott
Honestly I have no fucking idea what I’d do with the defense. They have 7 guys who have played a lot of minutes, but a lot of them have been lacking for quality at times. Take Holl, Dermott, Ceci, Sandin and heck Barrie sometimes and pick them blindly out of a hat. Sandin has promise but seems to still be adjusting to life in the NHL. Dermott hasn’t taken as much of a step forward when given a big opportunity as I’d like. Ceci and Holl and Barrie have both been surprisingly good as far as underlying numbers while making many Leafs fans angry when we watch them.
Basically what I’m saying is Rielly and Muzzin need to come back playing 60 minutes a night.
Weirdly, I might be the most confident in the goalie tandem from top to bottom — not that anyone but your starter really matters in the playoffs. Andersen has looked much more like himself for about 2 weeks leading up to the shutdown. Campbell was a revelation after the trade, helping us at least tread water during some tough stretches of play and Andersen’s injury.
We have all weekend (and beyond). What does your ideal lineup for the Leafs look like with a fully healthy roster?
ONTO THE LINKS
Ilya Mikheyev is 100% healthy (among other bits of news) | by MLHS
Highlights of Brendan Shanahan’s interview with James Duthie | by Jon Steitzer at TLN
Have a safe, healthy and happy weekend everyone!
How deep do you think a fully healthy Leafs’ lineup can go in the playoffs?
This poll is closed
First round loss
Make it to the second round
Make it to the conference finals
Make it to the Cup finals
Toronto enters collective alcohol-induced coma from celebrations