Injuries Taking Their Toll On Maple Leafs Opening Roster
Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke’s prized off-season signing Tim Connolly was out of the lineup earlier this week after crashing into the boards at Monday’s practice, fellow centre Tyler Bozak is also said to be nursing some injuries and now sophomore forward Nazem Kadri looks to have injured his knee during the third period of the Maple Leafs tilt against the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday night.
Kadri, 20, was centering Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul (Toronto’s first line wingers) when the injury took place, an opportunity he got due to the Connolly injury.
While the injury to Connolly is considered to be mostly a precautionary measure and nothing serious, the loss of Connolly, Bozak and Kadri could be devastating to the Leafs playoff chances.
On the positive side, off-season acquisition Matthew Lombardi looks to have recovered enough from his long-term concussion symptoms to be cleared for contact and is expected to play in at least one pre-season game.
Whether that leads to Lombardi finding a place in the lineup to start the season looks to be a long shot, but if he’s deemed ready one has to think that he will find his way into the Leafs lineup sooner rather than later.
Heading into the 2011-12 season injuries were of great concern to the fans of the Blue and White. Both Connolly and winger Joffrey Lupul have a history of injury, Lomabrdi was deemed a wild card due to his concussion issues, while the memory of Captain Dion Phaneuf’s early 2010-11 season injury still lingers in the minds of many fans.
A quick start to the 2011-12 season is a must for the Maple Leafs, especially when you consider the Buds will face nine Eastern Conference foes in their first 11 games of the 2011-12 season.
Toronto Maple Leafs Head coach Ron Wilson will be under pressure to capitalize on the good finish the team had last season while, in terms of confidence, a quick start could do wonders for a team that has not made the playoffs in what feels like a decade.
The promotion of Mikhail Grabovski, Nokolai Kulemin and Clarke MacArthur as the Leafs first unit would seem to be the logical thing to do. That said, Wilson has shown a resistance to such moves in the past, often choosing to slot another player down the middle in the event of a long term injury or dry spell from one of his top line players.
With that in mind look for Grabovski to be slotted into the first line centre role with one of Lombardi or rookie forward Matt Frattin being asked to play on the second line to fill the void left by Grabovski’s promotion.
Frattin, 23, has been nothing short of impressive during his pre-season action, scoring timely goals and impressing with his quick feet and high hockey IQ.
Kadri and Frattin were said to be in a battle for the final roster spot, the Kadri injury all but assures Frattin that he will start the season with the big club, whether or not he stays with the Leafs will depend on his play in the early going.
In the past the injuries to Connolly, Bozak and Kadri would have destroyed the Leafs chances of starting the season on a positive note, it is a testament to Burke’s hard work, assembling a measure of organizational depth at all positions that will make it possible for the Leafs to play well to start the season.
Until next time,