Having missed the past two Leaf games, I have very little insightful to say about the team's play in the last week. I can speak to the period of hockey I saw against the Rangers (Lundqvist robbed the Leafs) or the stats (our powerplay is still pretty woeful) but I would prefer to just toss out a series of thoughts that I've had recently, none of which are developed enough to constitute an entire post.
Firstly, Nazem Kadri is putting up some solid numbers in the AHL. At last check he was at a point-per-game pace which is probably about what we expected from him when we sent him down. The Globe and Mail (who are doing some exceptional work in their 'Leafs Beat' section, I should add) recently did a post on Kadri and his development in the AHL as seen through the eyes of Coach Eakins.
I'm inclined to agree with both Mirtle and Coach Eakins' assertion that Kadri is probably best served with a little AHL seasoning despite the Leafs' lack of offense of late. I expect that Kadri will hit the ice in the NHL at some point this year, but I'm glad to see that he's getting the coaching attention that only the AHL can provide him at this point.
This leads me to my second point which is that both Caputi and Hanson earned this call up during the pre-season. These guys did exactly what was asked of them and outperformed expectations. If Kadri were called up in place of either of these two at this point, it would have been a huge slap in the face to two guys that frankly deserved to make the NHL squad out of camp.
Caputi is slated to get the start on the top line tonight which will provide some much needed size to our top unit. I like the move and look forward to seeing what this unit can do. Having said this, Caputi isn't nearly as strong defensively as either Versteeg or Kulemin are so this line better play most of their icetime in the offensive zone or they may find themselves in the red at the end of the game.
I love Versteeg on the third line. I know he has too much skill to be there longterm but things were never going to work with Grabovski as his centre. Both of them play a possession-style game with the puck and the problem with that is that there's only one puck on the ice at a time.
On the third line, Versteeg can go ahead and hog the puck all he wants. He's our best shot to score on that third unit and he's no slouch in the defensive zone either. Good move to put him on the third line until he gets things going.
Brian McGrattan calling out Chris Neil yesterday could not have come at a better time. Neil is a well-known coward in Leaf circles but after this public shaming, he may feel compelled to stand up for his reputation (whatever the heck that may be). If Colton Orr takes a break from knocking Matt Carkner unconscious, then Chris Neil might get what he deserves.
I know this is probably wishful thinking given Neil's track record for cowardice but seeing his nose get even more twisted up than it already is would be justice served for the years of Matt Cooke-ry we've been forced to endure from this guy.
Not to feed the rumour fires unduly, but my gut (which is twice as logical as my brain) feels like Burke is going to be pulling the trigger on something in the next few weeks. His self-imposed holiday trade freeze and the team's cap space suggest that this move could be made, and likely will be made, sooner rather than later. I can't wait to see what kind of wizardry he'll pull off this year.
That's it for now, folks. Enjoy tonight's game!