Nikolai Kulemin Replaces Kris Versteeg On Maple Leafs’ Top Line

October 25th, 2010 No Comments

With his team losing three games in a row, Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Ron Wilson has opted to start struggling winger Kris Versteeg on the second line in Tuesday nights game against the Florida Panthers.

Earlier in the week I had speculated that a move to the second line might be just what the doctor ordered for the snake bitten Versteeg, who, through seven games, has netted just one goal, missing numerous opportunities from in close along the way.

The ever-improving Nikolai Kulemin (who has one goal and four assists through seven games) is expected to take Versteeg’s place on the first unit alongside Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel.

Kulemin, who brings a little more size to the table than Versteeg, plays a similar style of game that Versteeg, battling in the corners, getting to lose pucks and creating offensive chances.

While not seen as a permanent move, Versteeg should be able to benefit from a change in scenery, hopefully leading to a few more goals and a lot less missed opportunities.

With Kessel and Clarke MacArthur accounting for 12 of the Maple Leafs 20 goals on the season the time has come to try to spread out the offense (which was a huge problem last season) and if that means juggling the lines a little bit, so be it.

If this move doesn’t work look for Ron Wilson to continue to make changes to the lineup until they can right the ship. The Maple Leafs quick 4-0-1 start could quickly be erased if this team continues to struggle, a point I am sure is not lost on Wilson and his coaching staff.

In other news, the defensive pairing of Dion Phaneuf and Francois Beauchemin continues struggle, leading many to believe that a change on the backend could soon be on the way as well.

Phaneuf was benched for a portion of the Leafs 5-2 loss against the Philadelphia Flyers (he played in only 15:01 of the game) and both he and Beauchemin looked weak defensively against the New York Rangers on Thursday night.

With Phaneuf, Versteeg, Beauchemin and others already starting to struggle it underlines the fact that, as good as the Maple Leafs start to the season has been it appears as if there are still plenty kinks to work out of the amour.

Until next time,


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