New pieces, hard decisions for Maple Leafs after deadline
After Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas made several roster moves ahead of the NHL trade deadline, head coach Sheldon Keefe has some big decisions to make as he rejigs Toronto's lineup for a Stanley Cup playoff run. Ryan O'Reilly has been playing on the second line with John Tavares since his trade from St, Louis but should the Stanley Cup champion lead the third line and on defence, is Justin Holl's time finally up?
OMAR: There's a lot of new on the leafs, because Kyle Dubas decided to snap. And because there's so many new players, the big question is, how are they all going to fit together? Because you have a bunch of combinations with forwards, you have a lot of combination with defensemen. And I know there are things that Sheldon Keefe and the organization may want. There are things that you want. This is what I want.
I think as far as the forward line lineup goes, it's kind of obvious, I think you keep that top line together, Bunting, Matthews, Marner. They just got together. They're kind of finding the groove a little bit. I think when everything is all said and done, that will be your-- hopefully your highest performing line.
I really like the idea of Ryan O'Reilly and Tavares together. Tavares has been really great on the wing. Whether you do explore a moment where Ryan O'Reilly is on the third line, I think that depends on whether Dubas continues to add. But right now, I think I like Tavares, Ryan O'Reilly, and Nylander. Nylander has been great with everyone.
The third line I'm a little iffy on. And that's why I've been kind of like trending down the line of perhaps you put Ryan O'Reilly on the third line. But if that's the case, you need someone else. So I still think the Leafs can get another scoring threat, whether again it's via trade or maybe you promote someone from the minor leagues. Because I don't think David Kamp, Alex Kerfoot, and Calle Jarnkrok are enough. I think maybe if you want to have them as like a defensive only line, sure, but then I think I'd rather have the fourth line do that.
And why? Because the fourth line now is heavy and is mean and could hurt people. Noel Acciari has been amazing. Sam Lafferty now has that speed and that grit. And Zach Ashton Reese, when he's on can throw a lot of big hits. So I think I'm OK with the fourth line kind of being that, you know, more defensive focus energy line, but I do think the third line needs a little bit more.
Now the defense-- the defense we're going to have a little bit of fun here. Because Sheldon Keefe like Justin Holl. I get it. And we've been everywhere when it comes to talking about Justin Holl.
But in my ideal lineup, because of the additions the Leafs have made, Justin Holl is not in my lineup. He's just not. I think it's time to watch a different movie. And I think because of all the new additions, there's opportunities to explore different line combinations.
So I think you have Jake McCabe and TJ Brody as your shut down defensive pair. I think that's great. They're both defensemen who can play either side. The defense focus first, I think that's solid.
I like the idea of Mark Giordano. And you know what, I think I really like the idea of Luke Schenn being there. Luke Schenn returning to the Leafs after a long time coming. I think that can be a really mean, great bottom pair, or however you want to line it up, whatever. But I think he can give you some good minutes.
And then I think you throw Timothy Liljegren out with Morgan Reilly. That's a pair that has gotten some runs together, but I don't think they've ever gotten like a full on shot. And Liljegren has been amazing this season and I think he deserves the opportunity. And I don't know, maybe it's that, or maybe you have Schenn with Riley. I don't know.
But like I think that's your six. And I think that's a six that needs some time to flow. And because there's still games left before the playoffs start, you have that time to work in that comfort.
So that's what I want. And again, this is no disrespect or shade to Justin Holl. He does great things, I get it, I understand it. But like we need a new look. And I think with all the work that Kyle Dubas has done, I think we owe it to him to show what those new looks can be long term.