Maple Leafs Need To Clean Up Center Position

No one can doubt what the Toronto Maple Leafs have done this off-season when it comes to adding value on short-term deals. However, when you look at the positions of the players the Leafs have added, there is one thing that pops up. Three of them are centres.

That gives the Leafs eight centers on their site’s roster page. The list consists of Casey Bailey, Tyler Bozak, Peter Holland, Nazem Kadri, Leo Komarov, Shawn Matthias, Nick Spaling and Daniel Winnik. So what are the Leafs to do?

Several questions surround Bozak. Without Phil Kessel on his wing, will he be the same center he was with him? Are the Leafs going to risk that his trade value might fall even further if he can’t be as good as he was in the past? There’s not a player left on the Leafs trading block that has more questions surrounding him than Bozak.

Nazem Kadri
Toronto Maple Leafs center Nazem Kadri (Photo Credit: Andy Martin Jr)

What about Nazem Kadri? Signed to a new one-year deal, can he finally fulfill his potential? If he can’t, he might very well be moved. He might even be moved if he succeeds and the Leafs get a good offer at the trade deadline.

If Bozak remains with the Leafs to start the season, we can presume that he and Kadri will be the No. 1 and 2 centres. Who comes next? If loyalty means anything, it will be Peter Holland taking the No. 3 spot. It has been said that Nick Spaling will move back to center. That implies that he would probably be the No. 4 center.

What About Everyone Else?

That leaves Bailey, Komarov, Matthias and Winnik to probably move to the wing. Now, you have to consider who the Leafs have on the wings.

James van Riemsdyk and P.A. Parenteau will probably take up the wing spots on the first line. Joffrey Lupul could slot in the second-line left wing spot if he’s not dealt. Then they have two right wingers in Richard Panik and newcomer Marc Arcobello. That leaves open just three spots on the wing, one on the right side and two on the left. Bailey can also play on the right wing while Matthias and Winnik can also play on the left side. Komarov can play either wing.

Casey Bailey
(Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports)

That leaves someone out of a spot. So who do the Leafs keep out of the lineup? The easiest and simplest choice would be Bailey, sending him down to the Toronto Marlies and have him play with the Leafs top prospects. However, he signed with the Leafs mid-season so he would have a shot at being in the lineup. Will he be happy with spending most of his time in the minors?

The Leafs can definitely ice a lineup with the roster they currently have but having four players playing out of their natural position could lead to problems. Not to mention the possibility of a lot of these players could be moved at the deadline. That what happens when eight of your forwards will be free agents on July 1, 2016.

One thing is for sure. It will be interesting to see what happens with the Leafs roster as it shakes out during the rest of the off-season and how the ensuing battles for spots in training camp turn out.