Jeff Carter to Toronto Does Not Make Sense For the Leafs
There have been many rumors recently pushing the idea that Jeff Carter will be playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs come opening night in October.
While Jeff Carter is a number 1 Center and undoubtedly one of the top players in the NHL today, he is just not what the Maple Leafs need for this upcoming season.
Jeff Carter is basically another Phil Kessel, both players are pure shooters who love to skate down the wing and toss the puck on net. While Jeff Carter isn’t a defensive slouch either, the Leafs would be better served spending money on someone who can get the puck TO Phil Kessel to put it home. An A+ playmaker like Brad Richards would be perfect but a serviceable B level talent like the oft-injured but effective when healthy Simon Gagne from TBL or UFA to be and probable cap casualty Ville Leino from PHL would also be great complements to the Kessel-Richards combination. If the Flyers need to make a trade to get under the cap, Scott Hartnell would be an INSTANT fan favorite in Toronto, his grit around the net and willingness to drop the gloves make him very popular in Philadelphia and being on the books for only 1 more year means that he’s easy to let walk away should someone step into his role for the Leafs.
Brad Richards still makes the most sense because he would be the Leafs top line center and with Kessel on one wing and say Hartnell on the other would be a solid goal scoring line. Put it this way, a top scoring line should combine 3 different types of players, a scorer (Kessel), a passer (Brad Richards) and a power forward who can screen goalies and stick up for the 2 skill guys (Scott Hartnell or another like player, say Arron Asham if the Leafs want to go cheap on this).
Putting 2 pure shooters on the same line rarely works unless the third player is a master of giving them the puck. A Kessel-Brad Richards-Hartnell line would be incredibly effective, like the Heatley (shooter), Couture (passer), Clowe (power forward) combination is for San Jose.
This would allow Lupul to play with Armstrong and Grabovski on the 2nd line which would allow Ron Wilson to shelter some of the younger kids like Tyler Bozak and Nazem Kadri on the third line and not rush their development. If the Leafs acquire Jeff Carter, you run the risk of having 2 pure shooters, Carter and Kessel on the same line with no one to give them the puck and that would put a ton of pressure on Tyler Bozak to be the playmaker needed to get Carter and Kessel the scoring chances. Bozak’s got a great upside, but his development cannot be rushed.
Another way to help get Kessel the puck so he can score is to look to improve the blue line crew. On the back end, the Leafs should target a puck moving Defenseman who can step up and play big minutes, Christian Ehrhoff of Vancouver is looking like he will get a massive payday on the UFA market and the Leafs have money to spend. A defense with a top pairing of Schenn/Phaneuf with Aulie/Ehrhoff on the 2nd pairing would be a huge improvement and Ehrhoff’s Powerplay ability would increase the PP production of the Leafs and move the Leafs up from where they were this past season, 22nd overall in the NHL.
Remember, a team of stars alone does not make a Cup winner, but rather, stars and role players working together gives you the best shot at winning it all.