By Stan Smith

This post is a special one for Old Prof Hockey. It welcomes back Stan Smith for the season. If you’ve read posts on this site before, you know that Stan is the creator of “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.” He’s an intelligent student of the game of hockey, and he’s well-read and well-versed about the game. As the Old Prof, I believe he does some of the most extensive Toronto Maple Leafs game reviews written. I am pleased he’s willing to do this again this season.

Stan is a bit of a hockey “geek.” He tapes and rewatches each Maple Leafs’ game as he prepares his extensive list of Good, Bad, and Ugly aspects. We’ll do this exercise again this season by reviewing each Toronto Maple Leafs game.

Welcome back, Stan! Here’s looking forward to another season of your adept analysis.

Related: Maple Leafs’ Nylander Growing More Professional

First Post of the Season: Considering the Maple Leafs Roster

There are two parts to this exercise.  

The first part is to imagine yourself as the Maple Leafs general manager (GM). The first game of the season is tomorrow. Everyone who is under contract with the organization has made it through training camp healthy. You have checked with the other 31 GMs in the league and there are no deals available that you feel will make this team any better. 

John Tavares and William Nylander make a strong second line for the Maple Leafs.

Who are the players on the roster when the puck drops in game one? Keep in mind you have to be within the league’s $83.5 million salary cap.

The second part is to take the role of the Head Coach. What do your lines and defensive combinations look like? Who is your starting goalie?

Stan as the Maple Leafs General Manager

ForwardsCap Hit
Auston Matthews$11,640,250
John Tavares$11,000,000
Mitch Marner$10,903,000
William Nylander$6,932,366
Tyler Bertuzzi$5,500,000
Max Domi$3,000,000
David Kampf$2,400,000
Calle Jarnkrok$2,100,000
Ryan Reaves$1,350,000
Sam Lafferty$1,150,000
Matthews Knies$925,000
Bobby McMann$762,500
Total Cap Hit Forwards$57,663,116
DefensemenCap Hit
Morgan Rielly$7,500,000
TJ Brodie$5,000,000
John Kilingberg$4,150,000
Jake McCabe$2,000,000
Timothy Liljegren$1,400,000
Mark Giordano$800,000
Total Cap Hit Defensemen$20,850,000
GoaliesCap Hit
Ilya Samsonov$3,550,000
Joseph Woll$766,667
Total Cap Hit Goalies$4,316,667
PositionCap Hit
Total Cap Hit$82,829,783
League Salary Cap$83,500,00
Remaining Cap Space$670,217

Related: Three Things Maple Leafs’ GM Treliving Did Right this Offseason

Stan’s Notes About the Maple Leafs Lineup

That lineup would give the Maple Leafs a twenty-man roster consisting of twelve forwards, six defensemen, and two goalies. It would mean placing the following seven players on waivers: Martin Jones, Conor Timmins, Simon Benoit, William Lagesson, Maxime Lajoie, Kyle Clifford, and Dylan Gambrell. The players in the most danger of being lost to other teams would be Jones, Timmins, and Benoit. I would hope that with all of the players hitting waivers at the end of training camp some of them would slip through. 

I would keep McMann (shown above) over those players because of his size, physicality, and tenacity. 

If Stan Were the Maple Leafs Head Coach

My job is done as GM. Now I have to assemble the forward lines, defensive pairings, and starting goalie. 

Forward Lines

Matthew KniesAuston MatthewsMitch Marner
Tyler BertuzziJohn TavaresWilliam Nylander
Max DomiCalle JarnkrokSam Lafferty
Bobby McMannDavid KampfRyan Reaves

Stan’s Notes About Line #1

I’m not sold on Matthews and Marner playing together all the time. I realize they play to each other strengths, with Marner as the playmaker and Matthews as the goal-scorer. However, I am not sure about having the two best forwards on the team together on the same line. Ultimately my decision to leave them together was determined by my choice of Knies for their left wing.

I first thought about having Bertuzzi on this line playing a similar role that Tom Wilson plays on the Washington Capitals top line. I decided on Knies with Matthews and Marner because both Matthews and Marner have developed into excellent 200-foot players and their defensive responsible play would help the rookie Knies be a little more comfortable and able to concentrate on his strengths.

Stan’s Notes About Line #2

Another reason for not having Bertuzzi on the top line is that, between him and Knies, he is the better, more experienced, and rounded player. I feel he would complement the play of Tavares and Nylander more. One of the drawbacks of Tavares playing with Nylander and either Kerfoot or Jarnkrok the past couple of seasons is that it makes Tavares the most physical player on the line. Having another player who can do the banging will free up Tavares allowing him to spend more time in front of the net as opposed to behind it. 

Stan’s Notes About Line #3

This line, while not being very big, would be a balanced line combining Domi’s tenacity, Jarnkrok’s defensively responsible play, and Lafferty’s speed and physicality. They should also be fairly decent offensively.  Both Domi and Janrkrok scored 20 goals last season while Lafferty potted 15.  If this line can kick in 50+ goals, it would be the most potent third line the Maple Leafs have in a while.  

Calle Jarnkrok, Maple Leafs

Stan’s Notes About Line #4

This line has size and physicality with Reaves (6’2”, 225 lbs), Kampf (6’2” 195 lbs), and McMann (6’1” 205 lbs). Reaves is a hitting machine with well over 3,000 hits in his career. The late-bloomer McMann has impressed with his physical game in the AHL and has shown he is not shy about throwing his weight around in the limited play he has had in the NHL. While Kampf doesn’t hit much, he is a master at using his body to separate opposing players from the puck. Usually, when a player spends time on a line with more physical players the hitting becomes infectious. It would not surprise me if these three were to play together regularly if we didn’t see Kampf’s hit count increase. 

Defensive Pairings

Morgan RiellyTJ Brodie
Jake McCabeJohn Klingberg
Mark GiordanoTimothy Liljegren

Stan’s Notes about the First Pairing

We know that Rielly is comfortable playing alongside Brodie. I see no reason to break that pairing up. I realize that when Rielly was the Leafs’ best player in the playoffs last season it was away from Brodie and paired with Luke Schenn instead. Brodie struggled at times playing alongside McCabe and Giordano. But, the two of them played strong hockey for long stretches in the regular season. They are familiar with each other, and they know their roles when they are together. Brodie takes care of the defensive end of things allowing Rielly to play to his offensive strengths.

Stan’s Notes about the Second Pairing

This is the pairing with the most question marks. McCabe has been known as a strong, physical defenseman who played for bad teams. Klingberg has gone from being one of the best overall defensemen in the league to one of the worst. I feel it is important to note that Klingberg was good when playing for good teams and bad when playing for bad teams. Looking over Klingberg’s stat line last season, it was like he was two different players. Bad when was with the Anaheim Ducks. Good once he was traded to the Minnesota Wild. 

The left-handed McCabe played both sides with the Maple Leafs last season. Playing alongside the righthanded Klingberg would allow McCabe to remain on his natural left side. Similar to the Rielly/Brodie pair, Mccabe could handle the defensive end of things allowing Klingberg the opportunity to play more offensively. 

Stan’s Notes about the Third Pairing

As long as Giordano, at 40, doesn’t lose too much of a step this season, this could be a strong third pairing. Liljegren’s play has improved immensely over the past couple of seasons. He and Sandin seemed to have had a competition since the two of them came into the league. With Sandin gone, Liljegren can be declared the winner of that competition. He also started the season on the LTIR last year and lost development time in the Summer due to a hernia. He should come into this season fresh, confident, and in shape.

Liljegren could be considered a top-four defenseman and has developed into an all-around decent defenseman with an equally balanced offensive and defensive game. He’s growing physically as well and was credited with over 100 hits last season.

The combination of youth and experience that Giordano and Liljegren have should work well together. As with the first two pairings, this one also has a player who can handle the defensive duties in Giordano and one who can join in the rush in Liljegren. 

Extra Defenseman

Hopefully, one or both of Simon Benoit and Conor Timmins can clear waivers and be available if needed. At his age, Giordano is going to require some load management. Plus, the odds of having no injuries as the season progresses are slim to none. 

I just want to add one more note. I don’t think this defence is as bad as some others think. I feel it could surprise a lot of people.


Ilya SamsonovJoseph Woll

Stan’s Notes about the Goalies

I don’t think we should look at this as a #1 and #2 pairing. Yes, Samsonov is the more experienced goalie and makes four times the salary as Woll. But, if I were the coach, I would look at it as a “Show me” situation. Providing both goalies are 100% healthy, whichever one had the best camp would get the start in the first game. 

Because both goalies have had their share of injury issues in the past load management would be at the top of my mind. My goal at the start of the season would be to not have either goalie play more than two games a week and to have each of them play at least one game a week. If either one had something nagging that may allow them to play I would lean on the side of caution and play the other goaltender. 

Ilya Samsonov, Maple Leafs starting goalie

I would also hope like hell that Martin Jones would be able to clear waivers and be available. A third goalie will be needed at some point. If Jones failed to clear waivers I would make it a priority to find a goalie with NHL experience that I could park in the minors and call up if need be.

There you have Stan’s Plan if he was the GM or Head Coach of the Maple Leafs. If you had either job what changes would you make? Who would you have on the roster and where would you have them play?

Related: Maple Leafs’ Treliving Is Determined To Sign Nylander Next! 

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