It’s been a wacky few days on this end, and in the meantime, the Leafs won a thrilling 11 round shootout against the Flyers in London, lost in a shootout the next night in Toronto, lost to Buffalo on Sunday and beat the Sabres on Monday night behind two goals from Phil Kessel, who’s shown an instant chemistry with Kris Versteeg. Versteeg’s speed complements Kessel and Bozak well, and his hands are probably smoother than anyone else on the team. Yes, it’s still preseason, but watching him sauce passes over defender’s sticks is a welcome sight to a team that had everyone from Rickard Wallin to Niklas Hagman playing opposite from Kessel last year.
Nazem Kadri is looking more and more like he’ll need to at least start the season in the AHL with the Marlies. He hasn’t done much at all besides scoring a nifty shootout goal against Philadelphia, and has just looked out of place at times. He’ll have a final few chances to change everyone’s mind over the next few days, as the Leafs kept him on the club through a few waves of cuts. Over the past couple days, 21 players have been released or assigned to the AHL or junior clubs. Here’s the list of casualties:
Forwards: Darryl Boyce, Alex Foster, Ryan Hamilton, Dale Mitchell, Jerry D’Amigo, Marcel Mueller, Brayden Irwin, Brad Ross, Wayne Primeau, Andrew Crescenzi, Greg Scott, Sam Carrick, Robert Slaney
Defensemen: Keith Aulie, Jesse Blacker, Korbinian Holzer, Mike Brennan, Simon Gysbers, Juraj Mikus
Goalies: Jussi Rynnas, Ben Scrivens
You gotta think that about 17 of the 23 active roster spots are locked up: Kessel, Versteeg, Bozak, Kulemin, MacArthur, Armstrong, Grabovski, Brown, Orr, Phaneuf, Beauchemin, Kaberle, Komisarek, Schenn, Giguere and Gustavsson should all have names engraved over their locker room seats by now, while Christian Hanson would be my hands-down choice for 4th line center, given his added size and the way he’s played so far.
That leaves Kadri, Caputi, John Mitchell, Mike Zigomanis, Tim Brent, Greg McKegg, Jay Rosehill fighting for one of two spots somewhere on the Leafs’ forward lines. On defense, Carl Gunnarsson has had a bit of a disappointing preseason, and his leash probably won’t be too long , considering that Brett Lebda and Matt Lashoff both already have plenty of NHL experience and would be more than capable players at the 6 spot on the Leafs’ blueline. Jeff Finger is still technically on the roster, but Burke should be fired if that contract isn’t in the minors by the time the deadline rolls around, while Danny Richmond probably doesn’t have much of a shot at making the team, but has played so well during the preseason so far, he’s earned himself a few extra games with the big boys.
Leafs got the night off tonight, but they take on the Senators tomorrow night. If you’re stuck in the US and haven’t been able to catch the games on TV like me, tomorrow will be nice, since the game will be televised live on the NHL network.