Toronto Maple Leafs: Improving Bottom Six Would Help With Possession Problems
If the Toronto Maple Leafs want to solve some of their possession issues, they should look no further than their third and fourth lines. These lines have allowed the opposition to possess the puck too often and set up shop comfortably in the Toronto offensive zone.
There has been almost no offense generated by the normal bottom-six culprits, Jay McClement, David Clarkson, Colton Orr, Nikolai Kulemin (and even Carter Ashton, Dave Bolland, Jerry D’Amigo, Peter Holland, Trevor Smith and others). The claim that these lines are only used to be able to somehow create energy should be basically limited to the extent to which they get in fights.
The Leafs, who fight often, could definitely “waste” a line with fighters (like Orr), but probably should consider trying to place at least one player who can actually shoot the puck on their fourth line. Ashton is an option, but does not seem to have figured out how to play at the NHL level quite yet; he currently looks a lot better in the AHL than he does with the big club.
On the third line, Clarkson and Kulemin continue to underachieve and are nowhere near their capability in terms of their performance thus far this season. They are playing as if they are determined to prove that scoring 30 goals was a complete fluke in both of their careers.
Non-offensive threat McClement usually rounds out a third line that has sometimes been looked upon for its defensive value. Even though Kulemin’s defense is questionable, Clarkson is at least willing to block shots (though it did get him injured). However, I think that a “defensive” line is still expected to generate offense in transition, which is something that could help the Leafs with their possession as well.
Birthday-boy Holland is expected to help after being recalled. However, he has still yet to establish himself at the NHL level, though his play this year has been the most promising out of any of the youngsters in the bottom six. It may prove to be a genius move to recall him, or it may be too much pressure on the young player to make a difference.