We are almost halfway through this year’s shortened season and teams are beginning to show their true colors. Early season injuries affected some teams more than others and so there are a few surprises in the standings. On the other hand, the Toronto Maple Leafs are having a problem they have not been faced with in almost a decade – too much depth. With their current roster surprising both the hockey world and the Leafs nation, the club now has two defencemen sitting comfortably in the press box and two more players preparing to make their return. With limited roster space, the Leafs now have to decide who stays and who goes.
Joffrey Lupul was hit by a Dion Phaneuf slap shot that fractured his forearm back on January 23rd vs. the Penguins. The injury was expected to keep Lupul out for four to six weeks. He has now been out for a little over a month and has just begun skating. Although he has yet to practice with the team it likely that Lupul will match the original projection of his injury.
Jay McClement may not be the biggest offensive threat by any means but he provides a big body presence that is foreign to the Maple Leafs second-line. Nazem Kadri has also proven to be effective alongside proverbial Leafs second-liners Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin. Assuming coach Randy Carlyle will be unwilling to break up the combination of Phil Kessel and his scoring leader James van Riemsdyk, Lupul will have no other place to go but the second line bumping Kadri back down to third and McClement all the way back to fourth, which proves to be a sizeable change.
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Matt Frattin who underwent knee surgery in June, suffered a setback following his 10th game of the season in mid-February. The knee surgery due to the flair-up has sidelined Frattin for longer than the original one-week projection but Frattin is optimistic that he will return in a week’s time. Although he is practicing with the team, he has yet to be cleared for contact. Prior to the injury, Frattin was by far one of the most exciting players on the Leafs roster. In his 10 games with the club Frattin had seven goals and three assists for a total of 10 points in 10 games.
Leo Komarov, who secured his spot on the roster over Frattin in training camp, has been consistent for the Maple Leafs this season but not nearly as explosive. Both players are still on two-way contracts and can be reassigned to the Marlies. Considering Frattin’s injury it should come as no surprise that he may play a few games with the AHL affiliate.
At the same time the Leafs have been somewhat unpredictable with their roster. In their recent bout against the Montreal Canadiens, Colton Orr started the game alongside Kadri and Clarke MacArthur. For that reason we could be seeing Frattin back on the Leafs bench as soon as he is healthy enough to play.
Although the Maple Leafs still have a lot of roster issues that need to be solved, having too much depth is one that Leafs fans will not be complaining about.