One of the things that always bothers me about the preseason is that the teams the Leafs play are the teams they’ll face another five times this year. Spice things up, give me some Golden Knights or Dallas Stars or any of the other Western Conference teams I forget exist.
Logistically I get that this is a pain in the ass, as most teams want to play their preseason game and quickly get back to their training facility, but dammit, I think stealing baseballs idea of training out of town has a lot of appeal too. The Leafs doing their entire camp in Newfoundland would be fantastic. Have the Habs or someone set up in Halifax, and build a Maritime preseason league similar to the Grapefruit league. We’ll call it the cod league and it will be fantastic.
Anyways, here’s the lineup…
#Leafs lines at morning skate:
— Kristen Shilton (@kristen_shilton) September 25, 2019
Some pregame thoughts…
1. The Spezza vs. Gauthier battle
The fact that the practice lines yesterday listed Spezza and Gauthier as alternating at center is interesting, and it certainly provides some intrigue to see who lines up there at game time. My personal preference for Spezza aside, I have to say I’m additionally interested in what if means for Gauthier if he’s not in that spot, as he hasn’t seen any time on wing at the NHL level or to my understanding AHL level either. That’s not to say he couldn’t do it, but can he do it well enough to beat out players like Timashov, Petan, etc. who are pushing for a 4th line job.
2. Will this be the game where I feel better about Cody Ceci?
This is a question many of us are asking, and it seems a lot of Leafs fans are comfortable with what they’ve seen so far. It’s entirely possible that I’m looking at him through too critical of a lens. He’s really on par with what the Leafs had in Ron Hainsey or Nikita Zaitsev in the top four, so maybe expectations need to be lowered, and acknowledgement needs to be given to him being a suitable replacement for those players. If the hope was that he’d provide some form of upgrade, that’s where I’ve been left wanting and haven’t given him a passing grade.
3. Now that Sandin/Marincin are in, do they keep pushing?
Cuts haven’t been made yet so you’d have to assume they’ll still be playing like their jobs are on the line. The potentially deep list of callups should have them engaged and pushing throughout the season too. Most of the Habs better players played on Monday, so they won’t have a chance to draw in against tougher competition, but it would be interesting to see if Babcock tests them against the top lines tonight to see if they can hold up to more established NHL lines.
4. Time is slowly marching on
I can’t help but feel that the novelty of the preseason has fully run its course and the excitement about hockey being back has been replaced with a desire to get to meaningful hockey already. Most teams seem to have their rosters figured out by now minus one or two adjustments, and figuring out the rest when it matters would be far more interesting than extended camps anyway. When we factor in that we’ve got 82 games and a post season that extends into June, I beg the NHL to find a way to make cut this down and end hockey before June. If for no reason other than it’s becoming increasing challenging to come up five things to care about in a preseason game.
5. Dmytro Timashov
We should probably talk about him right? It’s neat that he’s still here and playing with the big dogs. When TLN did our prospect rankings a few weeks back, Timashov was identified as player who was in a make or break situation for a potential NHL career. Perhaps he was inspired by this and came to camp wanting to prove that it was time for him to take his next step. The fact that he wasn’t a standout on the Marlies last year hasn’t held him back, and is yet another reminder that AHL results are not a bulletproof indicator of future success.
Puck drop is at 7PM ET tonight and the game will be televised in Ontario on TSN 4.