Toronto Maple Leafs: Centre Of Attention, Who Will Play Down The Middle?

September 28th, 2010 No Comments

Earlier this week I speculated that Nazem Kadri, while a decent prospect, may not be ready for prime time NHL duty—at least not yet anyways.

Today, Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke was quoted in the Toronto Sun as saying, “He’s (Kadri) not anywhere near to the level we (the Leafs) had hoped for and expected,” Burke said on a conference call. “I don’t know why that is, but he’s running out of time.”

Which begs the question—if Kadri is not ready, than who the heck is going to step up as the Leafs’ third line centreman?

With sophomore Tyler Bozak expected to take on the first line duties between Kris Versteeg and Phil Kessel and the ever disappointing, Mikhail Garbovski’s all but a lock to fill the Leafs’ second line centre duties, there are few options the Maple Leafs can employ on the third line.

John Mitchell and Christian Hanson look to be the Maple Leafs’ most likely candidates to fill the void on the third line—neither of which inspire a whole lot of confidence, neither of which should be expected to provide the Leafs with a lot of offense.

Originally drafted in the fifth round of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft (158th overall), Mitchell (25 years old), looks to be the player he is going to be—a hard worker, defensively responsible player with limited offensive upside.

Through 60 games with the Maple Leafs in 2009-10, Mitchell amassed a total of six goals, 23 points and had a plus/minus rating of minus-7 (hardly encouraging numbers).

Hanson, (signed as a free agent by the Leafs in March, 2009) never lacks in the intensity department but has failed to thrive offensively, scoring a total of three goals in 36 career NHL games.

For Mitchell or Hanson to provide a 15-20 goal season that the Leafs need from their third line centre would be asking a lot. Simply put, these players are not built to fill that role and probably will not evolve into the scorer the Leafs so desperately need.

With that in mind, it looks as if it is time once again for Brian Burke to scour the trade route in search of a legitimate second or third line centre, which, with the season just over a week away from starting, may be all but impossible.

The effects of Kadri, Mitchell or Hanson not being able to step up for the Maple Leafs this season may be disastrous—costing the team a playoff spot and perhaps bumping the team back down into the hallows of the lottery pick teams.

Needless to say, if Burke gets any indication that the Maple Leafs are headed in that direction one can expect him to make a move—one that many Leaf fans are hoping for before the start of the season.

The free agent market is all but dried up with re-treads such as Kyle Wellwood (who is on a tryout in Phoenix), Jason Williams (really???), Robert Lang (who is simply too old), Adam Mair (a clone of Hanson/Mitchell) and other lesser names still out there.

Glen Metropolit—who scored 16 goals with the Montreal Canadiens last season, ten of which came on the power play—might have been a good option, but he recently signed with the Swiss-A League, where he has already amassed a total of four goals and eight points in six games.

Clearly, If change is going to come it is going to come in the form of one of the Leafs roster players stepping up, which seems unlikely, or via trade, which seems to be the more likely scenario.

One thing is for sure, Burke needs to do something and fast. The alternative simply isn’t good enough.

I wonder if Mats Sundin is done “being married” yet???

Until next time,

Peace!

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