Ask the Insiders: Is JVR the Leafs’ answer?

Welcome to Hockey Central: Ask the Insiders where fans get to pick the topics. This week The Insiders answer questions about the Leafs' centre woes, the Oilers' options and more. (Jason Franson/CP)

Welcome to Hockey Central: Ask the Insiders where fans get to pick the topics. This week The Insiders answer five questions, two on the roughed up Leafs, plus chaos in Carolina, options for the Oilers and the future of the Flames.

You can submit your questions by e-mailing us at or by using the hashtag #HCasktheinsiders.

This week’s questions:

Matt Britton asks: Is the Bolland injury a bubble buster for fans, or is the team deep enough to succeed anyway?

Scott Morrison (@morrisonSNET): The loss of Bolland hurts, there is no question about that. He was able to play on the second or third line depending on the situation and was a shutdown guy against the other team’s top centre (witness keeping Crosby off the scoresheet.) That is huge hole to fill. Kadri is going to have to play well and they have to hope that van Reimsdyk can adjust to centre. Any time you have injuries it is an opportunity for someone to step up. The injury will hurt, but shouldn’t cripple them.

Doug MacLean (@DougMaclean): Bolland is a very tough injury for the Leafs as it’s coupled with the loss of Bozak and the relative inexperience of Kadri. JVR may be okay in the short term, but they need him on wing. Hopefully Bozak won’t be out for too long. If so, management will have to find short-term help, which might not be easy. Third or fourth lines you can find, but top two centres are a different story.


‏@toughguy asks: What do you see the Leafs doing to fill their hole at centre until Bozak and Bolland return?

Jeff Marek (@JeffMarek): I don’t think there’s any rush to go out and trade for their replacements ASAP. I think the prudent thing to do is to find out if the answer is already in the room, which they’re doing by trying van Riemsdyk in the middle. Having said that, if it doesn’t work and the Leafs start to sputter and I’m Leafs GM Dave Nonis, I call my buddy Brian Burke and see what it would take to bring back Matt Stajan (I know fitting him under the cap might be a challenge though.) Stajan knows the market, knows the team and is one of the most versatile centres available. He may not be the flashiest middleman out there but he can play on any line and doesn’t make costly mistakes.

Chris Johnston (@ReporterChris): In the short term, it appears that James van Riemsdyk is the answer. He’ll be moved from left wing to centre – a position he last played in college – on the top line while GM Dave Nonis looks around at other options. Given the price it will likely cost him to make a trade, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Leafs end up making due with what they currently have.


Ted Furey asks: If you’re the Oilers GM, what would you do?

Mark Spector (@SportsnetSpec): First of all, don’t panic. Then, quietly work on acquiring a top-pairing D-man, some size in the second pairing, and changing the mix upfront. Too many of the Oilers’ top six forwards are the same. They need two players like Wayne Simmonds, Jeff Carter or James van Riemsdyk – a big body who is a legit top six player.

Marek: When Craig MacTavish took over GM duties for this team he talked about making big, bold moves and it looks like that’s what he’ll need to do if things are going to improve in Edmonton. It’ll take a sacrifice and not just a bottom six forward or a mid-range prospect playing in Oklahoma City. This is a team that needs to see one of its young, core players leave the room to show how serious a situation this is. Question is, who’s that player? Nail Yakupov would be at the top of my list and I’d be looking for hefty return as well that addresses my two main needs – goaltending and defence.

Also, one of the most valuable and underrated players on the team (who was passed over for a captain role I personally think he should have received) is Sam Gagner. Hard to think he’s a vet at his young age (24) but he’s already played more than 400 games and could fetch something nice in return. I’d look at moving those two players specifically, along with their first round pick in this year’s draft. Edmonton should be done with first-round picks – they need players. Now.

Morrison: I would try to find some experienced help on the blue line and I would definitely make an upgrade in goal. The confidence throughout the lineup starts with the goaltender and the confidence simply isn’t there right now. That’s not to hang it all on the goalies, but they need an improvement to help accelerate improvements in other areas.


Ryan Bortis asks: Is it time for the Canes to shake things up? Trade the Staals or Ward? Or is Muller on the hot seat?

MacLean: The Canes are a real mystery . The Staals are disappointing for me – they have to be better. Jordan just got his second goal of the year. Ward has had injury problems the last couple of years. Semin is in and out for me. Losing Pitkanen was a big loss. This is a big year for the Canes as I suspect frustration is growing with the fan base.

Marek: It wouldn’t surprise me if Muller’s on the hot seat for this team underperforming again. Having said that, this is a team that has been dogged by big injuries in key positions specifically defenceman Pitkanen and more importantly Cam Ward, so for that I personally give Muller a mulligan. And hey, they beat Philly to kick off a five-game homestand last night so maybe things are starting to turn around. Okay, I know it’s not like beating the San Jose Sharks but it’s a start, right?

Johnston: This is an important season in Carolina and it’s not off to a great start. That fact alone puts coach Kirk Muller on the hot seat and should leave a few of his players feeling uncomfortable as well. While it would be difficult to imagine either of the Staals being dealt now, the Hurricanes are currently spending to the cap and others could be in play. Jeff Skinner’s name had been floating around before he recently went down with an upper-body injury.


Steve-O asks: Will the Flames unload some vets this year? Stajan, Cammy, Wideman, etc., if the return is good?

MacLean: I don’t expect a fire sale in Calgary. They will want to keep good vets to help develop the kids. Plus, they don’t have an overabundance of top prospects. Slow process.

Spector: If they can, yes. Cammalleri is the one Flames player that 10 GMs across hockey are watching. He is the consummate deadline pickup and is a UFA at year’s end. Same with UFA-to-be Stajan, though he’s more of a depth centre on a contending team. Flames would move both, I believe. Wideman, with three years left at $5.25M per, is unmoveable.

Johnston: Calgary could be pretty busy leading up to the trade deadline. Despite getting off to a decent start, this remains a rebuild and that makes some of the guys you asked about potentially expendable. Stajan and Cammalleri, in particular, should garner interest from other teams given that they are pending unrestricted free agents this summer.


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