Early 2013-14 Grades for Each Toronto Maple Leafs Line
The Toronto Maple Leafs have had some good offensive play from their attacking lines in 2013-14. The team has felt the effects of injuries to Nikolai Kulemin, James van Riemsdyk, Frazer McLaren and a suspension to offseason acquisition David Clarkson.
The club has responded well for the most part, but defensive play from many of the young players (and, at times, the veterans) has not been great.
Randy Carlyle has moved players around a lot, not only from game-to-game, but in games themselves. Nazem Kadri has probably moved the most so far, but for our purposes we'll have him on the second line.
Here are the early grades for the Toronto Maple Leafs lines in 2013-14.
All stats are from NHL.com unless otherwise noted.
L4: Carter Ashton, Jay McClement, Colton Orr
Early Grade: C+
There has been a lot of shuffling of players on the fourth line for the Leafs this season. Troy Bodie and Trevor Smith have also played a handful of games each, mainly with the fourth unit.
Therefore, it is difficult to assess them accurately as a group. Jay McClement has played the most minutes, and also sees some time on the third line when Randy Carlyle shortens the bench. While McClement has yet to score this year, he takes a lot of defensive zone draws.
McClement's relative Corsi number is minus-7.7, but the Leafs have given up a lot of shots this year, so a lot of this is a team statistic. He is even in terms of plus-minus, and that is a good stat for him.
The best teams in today's NHL—such as the San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks—get some offensive production from their fourth lines. This is something that would be a great bonus for the Leafs.
Continuing to play a physical brand of hockey and making life difficult for opponents remains the most important job for any fourth line. Colton Orr might know this better than any Leaf, and it is reflected in his 26 penalty minutes.
L3: Josh Leivo, Dave Bolland, Mason Raymond
Early Grade: B
This is another group that has not necessarily played a lot of minutes together. Dave Bolland has played a lot of minutes on the second line, for instance, to offset some of Nazem Kadri's defensive issues.
Meanwhile, Mason Raymond has also played in the top six in large parts of games, and will be listed on two lines. Josh Leivo also filled in due to injuries, and did an adequate job in playing over 10 minutes per game and chipping in with two points. David Broll has spent some time in the bottom six and played some third-line minutes in five games, too.
Bolland has been all that the Leafs could have hoped for since acquiring him. He's scored some big goals and has been contributing in all zones. He has seven points to start the season and has been a thorn in the side of opposing players when required.
As players come back from injury, expect this third line to be one of the better ones in the Atlantic Division.
L2: Mason Raymond, Nazem Kadri, Joffrey Lupul
Early Grade: B+
It has seemed like Mason Raymond has been in two places at once this season, so we're going to list him on both the second and third lines. Dave Bolland has done similar duty, but Raymond has played even more minutes than Bolland—averaging over 18 per game.
Raymond has brought some great versatility to the Leafs. His speed and smarts fit in well with a number of players. He's tallied eight points and made the players around him better with his speed and creativity in the offensive zone.
While Nazem Kadri has struggled defensively at certain times, he has contributed eight points while averaging just over 16 minutes of ice time. Expect his ice time to rise as he improves his defensive play in the coming months.
Joffrey Lupul has played at a point-per-game pace this year, and hopefully he won't miss any significant time after being injured in practice on Thursday morning.
Lupul has played unselfishly and has likely forced Team Canada's brass to start looking at him as a possible winger at the Sochi Olympics.
L1: James Van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak, Phil Kessel
Early Grade: A-
This has been one of the league's top offensive lines over the first few weeks of the NHL season. All of these players are contributing offensively, with Phil Kessel already earning 11 points and taking 40 shots. His relative Corsi number is minus-4.0, but that should improve over time as he's posted good relative Corsi numbers over his career.
James van Riemsdyk has also had a very good start to the season with eight points in eight games played. Hopefully he can stay healthy given his strong play so far this season.
Tyler Bozak has been dependable, and while he hasn't had the same offensive numbers as his linemates, he's played an honest all-around game on most nights. The team could use even more offensive production from him, but his effort cannot be questioned.
Led by Kessel, expect this line to be even better as some important depth players return to the Leafs in the coming days, and Randy Carlyle can use them as even more of an offensive force.
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