Ron Wilson Shakes Up Maple Leafs Top Line: Luca Caputi In, Nikolai Kulemin Out

November 2nd, 2010 No Comments

With his team being shut out in back-to-back games Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Ron Wilson has decided to shake up his first line by penciling in Luca Caputi to play alongside Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel, while dropping Nikolai Kulemin back to the second unit.

Moving Caputi up to the first line would seem like a desperate move, but with the team currently in a funk and with Kulemin adding little in his short stint on the first line Wilson has little choice but to shake things up.

That said, is Luca Caputi really the answer?

Through 30 career NHL games Caputi has amassed a total of three goals, nine points and a minus two rating—not exactly first line numbers, am I right?

At the AHL level Caputi has shown signs that he could evolve into a solid NHL player, posting 18 goals and 45 points in 66 games with the Pittsburgh Penguins AHL affiliate Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in 2008-09, follwoed by another good season with the WBSP with 23 goals and 47 points in 54 games in 2009-10.

Known for his tenacity and compete level, Caputi is best suited to play off the wall and should create a few scoring chances by digging the puck out, but I think it’s pretty safe to say that he’s not much of a goal scorer— at least not at the NHL level.

Caputi netted four points in six pre-season games and, as others have pointed out, can be counted on to park his butt in front of opposing goaltenders for much of the game against the Ottawa Senators this evening.

As much I as I can understand giving a guy a shot, I wonder what this latest move does to Kulemin’s confidence level?

Wilson: “Nikolai, we are going to send you back down to the second line”.
Kulemin: “Ok coach, who’s in”
Wilson: “Ahh, looks like that kid that didn’t make the team out of training camp, you know, the one we just called up from the Marlies—Luca Caputi”
Kulemin: “What are you new???”

Look, I am all for experimenting, but moving Caputi up to the first line smells like an act of desperation to me.

The constant movement throughout the lineup kills whatever chemistry the players have developed in their short time together. Better to stick it out, develop chemistry and make changes only when 100% necessary.

So, how will the Maple Leafs lineup look tonight against the Sens?

Caputi will play alongside Kessel and Bozak (who has been struggling offensively—maybe he’ll be on the third line by the next game?), Tim Brent will centre Clarke MacArthur and Kulemin, Tim Brent will centre Mike Brown and Kris Versteeg (who has played most of his time on the first line this season) and the fourth line will consist of Christian Hanson centering Colton Orr and Fredrik Sjostrom.

Versteeg spent most of his NHL career playing on the second and third lines of the Chicago Blackhawks so his “demotion” to the third is nothing new (not that he was demoted to Chicago’s third line, but you get the point).

That said, if you are ever going to get Versteeg going, wouldn’t it be a good idea to play him with some skill players rather than a couple of heavy handed pluggers?

Why do I get the feeling there will be more changes if the Maple Leafs lose against the Senators tonight? When is it time to say, “enough is enough?”.

Ahh, the life of a forward playing for Ron Wilson…good luck with that, boys!

Until next time,

Peace!

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