The Toronto Maple Leafs blue-line is in shambles, and they had to dress William Lagesson, Simon Benoit and Connor Timmins for two games so far, including against the Boston Bruins this weekend.
While the Toronto Maple Leafs actually got a pretty decent performance out of their emergency defensemen, the team is desperate for reinforcements.
The problem for the Leafs is that they need multiple pieces for their blue-line, which means that instead of shooting for an actual impact player, they are going to try and bring in two average players.
This is a huge mistake, and the Leafs are lucky that they couldn’t work out their terrible trade with the Calgary Flames for Tanev and Zadorov.
The Leafs should be trying to bring in an elite player for their top pairing who can put TJ Brodie into a better position.
With Timmins, Lagesson and Benoit proving to be decent depth options, the Leafs wouldn’t actually need to get more than one defenseman if they could make use out of one of their top prospects.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Promoting a Prospect Could Save Season
While I am fully aware that the Leafs plan was to give Mikko Kokkonen and Topi Niemela time to get accustomed to playing in North America by playing a full season for the Marlies, that plan no longer makes sense.
The Leafs need help, and if one of those guys could step into the NHL and win their minutes, it would be the biggest story of the year for the team.
There really is no risk here, the Leafs should give them each a game in the top four and see how it goes. If there is anything that they can build on, then they should get more games.
I’m not advocating throwing either of them to the wolves, so there wouldn’t be any risk in stalling their development.
Ideally, you’d like to slowly break in a defenseman by having him on the 3rd pairing and going from there. But optimal situations are few and far between when half your blue-line is out with a long-term injury.
Odds are, each player would play one rough but promising game in the Toronto Maple Leafs top four, then return to the Marlies with some experience. If they get really lucky, one of them will earn a second game.
There is nothing to lose here. The Leafs NEED to find a diamond in the rough. Niemela and Kokkonen are dirt-cheap and have no acquisition costs. Sure, the odds of finding a rookie who can play on your top pairing are low, but it’s happened. (stats naturalstattrick.com).
You can’t know unless you try. What you know for sure is that when you dress Timmins, Lagesson and Benoit in the same game you will lose more than you win. What you know for sure is that when you spend assets and money on mid-range players, it’s expensive and doesn’t help as much as you’d like.
Before bringing in a B-level addition like Sean Walker or Chris Tanev, it’s important for the Toronto Maple Leafs to explore all options.
Just one game of Mikko Kokkonen on the second pairing, and one game of Topi Niemela on the top pairing with Morgan Rielly. Just to see what happens.
It could save the season.