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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Fast, young Leafs may abandon Conn Smythe mentality

Matt Frattin

Joe Colborne

Colborne and Frattin could both make 2011-2012 Maple Leafs squad

Though Toronto Maple Leafs' GM Brian Burke has been a steadfast disciple of the Conn Smythe axiom "If you can't beat 'em in the alley, you can't beat 'em on the ice," in light of the new Rule 41 changes to boarding infractions, it may be time to ramp up the team's speed. If Burkie and Wilson do opt for more skill and speed, it will be the 4th line where the kids emerge, as that is where the toughness has primarily resided. Everyone has been assuming that either Colton Orr or Mike Rosehill or both will make the team, however the new rules (Rule 48 regarding head hits has also been tightened) mean that it is possible that neither will make it. The legacy of vigilante justice and bare-knuckle fighting (banned for over a century in boxing and other sports) may be winding down.

If we are facing a new mentality in the NHL that will reward speed even more than toughness, who should the Maple Leafs be considering for the 4th line? Let's deal with the first 3 lines and then see who we have.

Toronto Maple Leafs projected Top 3 lines

Lupul - Connolly - Kessel
MacArthur - Grabovski - Kulemin
Kadri - Bozak - Armstrong

Here are the main contenders for 4th line duty on the Leafs (we're leaving Matt Lombardi out of the equation for now, as his injuries mean he will start with Marlies when ready):

Darryl Boyce
Joe Colbourne
Matt Frattin
Colton Orr
Jay Rosehill
Mike Brown
Joey Crabb
Philippe Dupuis

Projected 4th line:

Frattin - Colborne - Boyce

Extra forwards to stay with big club: Dupuis, Orr

Even though this line would require shifting Boyce from centre to right wing, he is a gritty, PEI-raised forward who can handle the switch, especially if it means skating with the smooth Colborne and the energetic, slick Frattin.

As for the defence, I believe the Buds have 8 NHL calibre defenders (in order: Phaneuf, Schenn, Liles, Franson, Aulie, Komisarek, Gunnarsson and Lashoff), so look for one of these to be packaged with a forward in a 2-for-1 trade to bring us another goal scorer, or a proven NHL goalie.

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