Toronto was desperate for help at the center position and by acquiring Holland, the Maple Leafs were able to move James van Riemsdyk back to the wing after he recently played at center. With Holland centering the top-line between van Riemsdyk and Phil Kessel, it allowed for van Riemsdyk to be much more comfortable on the ice than he had been in previous games.
Although the left-winger hadn’t played bad at center, it became obvious he’s a much better player on the wing and it showed against the Sabres as van Riemsdyk was named the first star of the game. He scored the first two goals of the contest for Toronto and it was also the first time he’s scored in six games for the club. It was the longest stretch of the season van Riemsdyk had gone without a goal and many believed it was because he wasn’t fully comfortable playing at center.
Given the injuries to Tyler Bozak and Dave Bolland, along with the suspension to Nazem Kadri, the Maple Leafs were extremely desperate for help down the middle. It was clear Toronto was going to need to make a trade to acquire help at center as the options within the organization were bare at best.
Acquiring Holland didn’t cost the Maple Leafs anything they couldn’t afford to lose and it now gives Toronto depth down the middle they didn’t have entering the weekend. The long-term injury status of Bozak and Bolland is unclear. Since the club can’t predict when either will be back, they needed a player like Holland badly.
Holland isn’t a superstar by any means. But in just one game, he created a chain reaction on the roster that helped van Riemsdyk break out of his goal-scoring slump. By making van Riemsdyk more comfortable on the ice and providing stability and depth at the center position, acquiring Holland has already paid off for the Maple Leafs.