The Toronto Maple Leafs blue-line is going to see some big (and necessary) changes this summer.
Sorry to tell you this if you are fans of Justin Holl (I am ) and Zach Bogosian (I am not) but they are probably done playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Justin Holl is a great story – breaking into the top four at age 27 and posting some pretty great numbers. However, Jake Muzzin is so good that I personally could probably get by for a few games as his partner. Injuries to “Muzzie” have exposed the Leafs two seasons in a row, and they need a guy in the top four who is there on his own merit.
As for Bogosian, he was the avatar for the Leafs misguided attempts at a “balanced roster” a nonsensical concept which I hope their first round exit at least has the advantage of getting rid of. He isn’t good and shouldn’t be back. But don’t worry – he won’t be.
The Toronto Maple Leafs New Blue-Line
Oh geez, I hear you asking, where are we going to get two NHL quality defenseman with a cash strapped roster right up against the salary cap?
In house, baby.
The reason the Leafs were able to acquiesce to the “balanced roster” nonsense last year was that they didn’t have any options. Now they do.
Timothy Liljegren is something approximating the Nicklas Lidstrom of the AHL. It’s now or never, so look for him to pair with the under-rated and (hopefully) cheaply re-signed Travis Dermott on the Leafs third pairing. Moving to the right side and playing in the top four, in what will likely be his last year before he becomes the team’s best defenseman, will be Rasmus Sandin.
I don’t want to hear how these players “aren’t ready.” They’re as ready as they’re getting. Time to learn on the job.
Sandin is already better than Justin Holl. Bogosian is the very definition of “replacement player” and so at worst, Liljegren will be lateral move. But that’s a lateral move with upside.
Rielly-Brodie Muzzin-Sandin Dermott-Liljegren will be a nightmare for other teams because of the constant speed and puck-moving ability. The Leafs should copy the Avalanche who have the league’s best blue-line and do not employ a single stay-at-home checking defenseman, other than Patrick Nemeth, who can also move the puck and wouldn’t even play if Erik Johnsson or Bowem Byram were healthy.
One major change you can expect from the Toronto Maple Leafs next season is to see Sandin and Liljegren take on regular roles. You have to imagine the team has the good sense to hold onto Travis Dermott, and therefore it’s simple deduction to realize that Holl and Bogosian will be gone.