What did the Toronto Maple Leafs lose in losing Tyler Bozak and Dave Bolland to injury?
They lost the center with the third-highest average ice time on the team in Bozak (21:16) and the player that takes the majority of their faceoffs. Second to Bozak in faceoffs was Bolland – albeit a paltry 41.3 percent – in a season that’s seen him post impressive offensive numbers (10 points in 15 games) for a guy better known for his defense.
Bolland underwent successful surgery on Sunday to repair a severed tendon and is out indefinitely; Bozak has a hamstring injury and won’t return until Nov. 21 at the earliest.
So what will the Leafs do to fill this void in the middle?
The first option appears to be moving James van Riemsdyk to center, which is what Randy Carlyle did at practice on Monday, as he skated between Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul.
He played a little center in college, but his skill set doesn’t exactly speak to being a quality pivot – he’s not someone that dominates with puck possession, for example. The notion that this could follow in the flawed lineup moves of Bobby Ryan and Ville Leino to center isn’t outlandish, but hey, this is out of necessity.
Michael Traikos runs down the other options, from AHL call-ups to trades to potential signings to fill in at center:
Kyle Wellwood retired last month, saying his heart was no longer in the game. But if the 30-year-old former Leaf could be coaxed into a return — and is in shape — he just might be able to provide the offensive game that the team requires in the short-term. Wellwood scored six goals and 15 points for the Winnipeg Jets last season and had one goal and three points for Zug in the Swiss league this year.
Your lineup is suddenly a doughnut, so you call Kyle Wellwood. Makes sense.
With 20 points in 15 games, the Leafs can survive a bump in the road. And when your centers for the next month are a solid Nazem Kadri, a wild card JVR, defensive stalwart Jay McClement and journeyman Trevor Smith, there might be a bump coming.