October 24, 2011; Philadelphia, PA USA; Philadelphia Flyers James van Riemsdyk (21) is checked by Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman John-Michael Liles (24) in front of goalie Jonas Gustavsson (50) during the 3rd period at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. The Flyers defeated the Maple Leafs 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE

Carlyle To Experiment JVR At Center.. For Now

Randy Carlyle mildly broke the Leaf Land silence Thursday afternoon with the announcement that he’d be moving newly acquired forward, James van Riemsdyk, to center for camp and going from there, as per Terry Koshan of the Toronto Sun

When Brian Burke announced the trade, he entertained the possibility of having JVR play center.  Though his natural position is the left wing, Burke stated that the actuality of him playing center would be up to Head Coach, Randy Carlyle.

“I ensivion him mostly on the wall,” Burke told a Saturday night conference call. “From my perspective we are not big enough.  He’s a big body with skill and those players are hard to find.”

Though Burke also mentioned that JVR does not “play big”, meaning physical, but that a big presence is what the Leafs lineup lacks.  He also likes the front of the net, a style which would suit someone playing center.

“He’s a big man and we’re going to try him playing in the middle for us,” Carlyle said of the 2007 second overall pick, “It’s always nice to have a 6-foot-plus center in your top six. We feel there is an opportunity to explore him at center.”

However, moving him to center seems to crowd the lineup with players playing unfamiliar positions.

For example, Tim Connolly will likely be the odd man out and be forced to play the wing.  Not to mention the improved play of Nazem Kadri will likely land him on the roster next season.  I also believe Tim Connolly has the potential to pick up his game, if he’s given premium time on the top line.  Connolly has some of the best individual talent on the roster.  Bumping two of your most gifted players to an unnatural position doesn’t seem like a move that will breed success.

Keep in mind, Carlyle is merely playing with the idea in camp.  By no means is this set in stone.  If anything, I think guys like Tim Connolly and Nazem Kadri will prove themselves in camp and show that they belong on the top line.   At the same time, with JVR back on the wing, it adds depth on the wings and solidifies the top two lines as a legitimate top 6 grouping in the league.

So for all those Leaf fans concerned with this move, don`t expect it to last.  I don`t believe the Leafs will cloud the upcoming season with any more uncertainty than there already is surrounding this team, barring any serious trades of course.

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