Overall you would have to say James van Riemsdyk’s brief time in Toronto has been a success. With 16 goals and 27 points, JVR has given the Maple Leafs some crucial balance on offense as they push for the playoffs. With that being said, van Riemsdyk’s production has gone through some dry spells this season and it’s interesting to examine his work when Joffrey Lupul has been both in and out of the line-up.
Lupul has missed substantial time this season due to injuries and a suspension, and for whatever reason, van Riemsdyk has performed much better without his services. JVR has just two goals with Lupul in the line-up this season and suffered through his biggest slump recently after the Leaf winger returned from a broken forearm. Lupul notched fourteen points during that stretch, while van Riemsdyk failed to find the back of the net once and had just two assists over that span. Although, since Lupul went down with an upper-body injury last Tuesday, van Riemsdyk has scored two goals and four points in three games.
JVR has been the benefactor of playing with Phil Kessel and Tyler Bozak for nearly 60% of his shifts thanks to all the time Lupul has missed. In fact, Kessel and Bozak have factored in on 18 of van Riemsdyk’s 27 points this season. When Lupul has been healthy, however, JVR has seen more time with Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin, where he hasn’t had nearly as much success. The three of them have teamed up for only three points.
The effort’s of JVR this year have also helped Kessel’s game in a positive way. The sniper normally does go through stretches where he struggles to find the back of the net, and having JVR on his line has allowed him to become more of a passer. Kessel uncharacteristically has 26 assists this season and only twice in his career has he posted more. Keep in mind those were in full 82-game seasons.
Now it’s easy to look at the play of van Riemsdyk in two ways. The first would be that he needs a strong support system around him to have success. Without Kessel and Bozak he has struggled, but to be fair, who doesn’t play better with more skill around them?
Secondly, it’s good to know that at least he does have the ability to step up when a key member of the squad goes down with injury. Lupul has made a tremendous impact in 2013, but keep in mind he has only played 10 games. Without players like JVR chipping in, Toronto wouldn’t be where they are right now.
It remains to be seen how long Lupul will be out, or if anyone else will go down with a significant injury this season. If the worst does happen though, this Leafs squad is better prepared to handle the situation and get through it. A balanced roster is something Toronto hasn’t enjoyed for quite some time.