Sunday, September 29, 2013

Toronto Maple Leafs Roster Shakedowns

My morning started with the news that Joe Colborne had been traded to the Calgary Flames for a fourth round draft pick that could become a third round draft pick if the NHL decided mid-season that all 30 teams would make the playoffs starting this year.

Next came the news that John-Michael Liles was on waivers and then finally word that Morgan Rielly would be starting the season in the NHL.

My feelings on the roster that's about to start the 2013-14 season is a bit of a mixed bag.  On the one hand, I'm pleasantly surprised that the Leafs decided to keep Rielly for the time being.  For one thing, I think he'll do more learning at the NHL-level than he will in the WHL with a pretty woeful Moose Jaw team and for another, I think he's a much better defenseman today than a guy like Mark Fraser.  As long as Phaneuf, Gunnarsson, and Ranger are eating PK minutes, I don't see any reason to carry Fraser ahead of Rielly.

As it pertains to the trade of Joe Colborne, I'm more than a little disappointed though not entirely surprised.  When trying to assess Colborne, the numbers don't really tell the whole story.  He's fought for icetime on a veteran laden AHL time and more recently fought through a serious wrist injury so the per-game totals aren't what you'd hope for but there's a reason a 24-year old with 18 career NHL games and no waiver eligibility just brought in a draft pick; he's a skilled center with size.

I'm not trying to suggest that Colborne is definitively going to be a top-6 player at any stage of his career but the fact of the matter is, he might be.  Not only that, he's affordable.  I'm not anti-toughness and I'm not anti-fighting but the idea of paying a premium to have Colton Orr in the lineup rather than Colborne is infuriating to me.  If there's a non-zero chance that Colborne is a top-9 forward and he makes less money than Orr, why trade him for scraps?

Before the pre-season got underway I predicted that Carter Ashton would make the team.  Not only that -- I'm happy he did.  Ashton is the kind of role player that everyone should love.  He's big and he forechecks well, he takes his defensive responsibilities seriously, and he's skilled enough that he wouldn't look out of place playing up in the lineup if you're in a pinch.

If I had to describe the Leafs roster in a word, ironically, it would be "deep" -- I say "ironically" because they're going to have fewer roster players than most teams as a result of their self-inflicted cap crunch but I digress.  The Leafs will have a third defense pairing that could probably be a 2nd defense pairing, a backup goalie who could be a starter (or should be if it ends up being the case that Bernier starts on Tuesday), and a surplus of top-6 wingers.  As always, the top-end talent doesn't compare with the league's top teams but we're icing a good product this season.

I don't know about you guys but I can't wait until Tuesday.

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