NHL

Maple Leafs Early Line Matchups Raise 8 Questions

The Toronto Maple Leafs iced their first lines of the training camp yesterday. While there were a ton of extra players around, do these early line matchups allow fans to speculate about the regular-season lineup? 

Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Puljujärvi, Murray, Marner & Mete

What things can be noted about the regular season right now from the way the coaching staff configured these early-line partnerships?

Maple Leafs Head Coach Sheldon Keefe Is Happy With What He’s Got

One thing that Maple Leafs’ Head Coach Sheldon Keefe noted during yesterday’s media day session was just how pleased he was with the depth of the team. Although the first day of training camp is usually a day for a positive spin about the upcoming season, there is something to be taken at face value about Keefe’s comments.

Sheldon Keefe and Manny Malhotra, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Keefe was indeed positive, noting “This is the most depth and options I have had coming into a camp in terms of what it might look like. I am excited to see that play out. I like what we have available to us.”

Given that the Maple Leafs are coming off franchise records in terms of its point total (115-points), Keefe’s note seems positive.

Maple Leafs’ Fans Will Be Happy with Nothing Less than the Stanley Cup

Does what Keefe believes matter to Maple Leafs’ fans? Probably not so much. They’re tired of piddling around; they want a Stanley Cup. And it would seem that (a) nothing else will do and (b) the Maple Leafs’ leadership knows that fact very well. 

Related: Maple Leaf’s Commentary: The Honeymoon’s Over for Dubas & Shanahan

On Wednesday, general manager Kyle Dubas was clear to center the focus on himself as the leader. Yesterday, Dubas added: “Our goal is not to win one round. Our goal is to win four. Our goal is to win the Stanley Cup. That is what we set our mind on every day,” 

What the Early Line Matchups Look Like

As Sports Illustrated‘s David Alter reported yesterday, even with some oddities because of the extra players and the fact that there were a number of four-player lines mixed in, the line matchups were:

Group 1 Forward Lines

Michael Bunting- Auston Matthews-Calle Jarnkrok

Kyle Clifford-Fraser Minten-Wayne Simmons

Zach Aston-Reese-David Kampf-Joey Anderson

David Kampf Toronto Maple Leafs
David Kampf, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Kevin Sousa/NHLI via Getty Images)

Nick Robertson-Nicholas Aube-Kubel-Alex Kerfoot

Logan Shaw-Pavel Gogolev

Group 2 Forward Lines

Adam Gaudette-John Tavares-Mitch Marner

Denis Malgin-Pontus Holmberg-William Nylander

Bobby McMann/Joseph Blandisi-Semyon Der-Arguchintsev-Nick Abruzzese

Graham Slaggert/Curtis Douglas-Max Ellis-Alex Steeves

Group 1 Defensive Pairings

Morgan Rielly-TJ Brodie

Jordie Benn-Victor Mete

Related: Victor Mete – The Next Ones: NHL 2016 Draft Prospect Profile

Mikko Kokkonen-William Villeneuve

Noel Hoefenmayer-Tommy Miller

Group 2 Defensive Pairings

Mark Giordano-Justin Holl

Carl Dahlstrom-Filip Kral

Marshall Rifai-Mac Hollowell

Matteo Pietroniro-Matt Hellickson

Mark Giordano Toronto Maple Leafs
Mark Giordano, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Kevin Sousa/NHLI via Getty Images)

Group 1 Goalies

Ilya Samsonov

Erik Kallgren

Group 2 Goalies

Matt Murray

Dylan Ferguson

Questions These Line Matchups Raise

Question One: Does putting Michael Bunting, Auston Matthews, and Calle Jarnkrok together suggest a chance that Jarnkrok might be more than a third-line defensive specialist?

Related: 7 Things About Roberto Luongo

Question Two: Does putting Zach Aston-Reese with David Kampf and Joey Anderson seem to suggest that the idea of the shutdown third line isn’t gone? Assuming this is partly the makeup of the third line and not the fourth, I was surprised to see Anderson on that line. However, it does make sense. Is this where Anderson might play this season?

Question Three: Putting the physical Nicholas Aube-Kubel with the defensively-reliable Alex Kerfoot and the offensively-minded Nick Robertson is an interesting matchup. Does it mean anything in the bigger picture? If so, what might it mean for Robertson’s deployment?

Nick Robertson Toronto Maple Leafs
Nick Robertson, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images)

Question Four: Perhaps the most interesting line matchup is putting John Tavares and Mitch Marner together. Does that reaffirm that Tavares will continue to be played in the center and not moved to the wing? Might there be a thought to break up Matthews and Marner? Is the biggest beneficiary of this matchup Adam Gaudette? Does this mean the coaching staff sees him as a top-six player?

Question Five: How interesting; putting Pontus Holmberg and William Nylander together, then adding Denis Malgin. Does it mean Holmberg is rising up the food chain toward a middle-six center position? Does it mean the coaching staff thinks Nylander can drive the offense from whatever line he plays on?

Question Six: Putting Morgan Rielly and TJ Brodie together is a no-brainer. But does it mean those two are basically sitting outside of the team’s decision-making – especially at the start of the season?

Related: Maple Leafs’ Matthews & Tavares Call Out Team: No Response & No Gas

Question Seven: Matching Mark Giordano and Justin Holl together is good for Holl. Giordano makes everyone who plays with him better. Could this become the team’s second defensive pairing? 

Question Eight: Two defensemen – Jake Muzzin and Timothy Liljegren – are very present in their absence. For the time being, does this mean Rielly and Brodie will be the first pairing, Giordano and Holl the second pairing, and Jordie Benn and Victor Mete the third? Does it mean Mete will play this season as a right-side defenseman? 

How Will the Team Lineup in Game Action?

Maple Leafs’ fans will see how this all looks in two preseason games tomorrow. The team is playing a doubleheader against the Ottawa Senators starting at 1 pm ET at Scotiabank Arena.

Obviously, it’s only day one. But it’s pretty interesting for now.


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