Michalek – Spezza – Ryan
MacArthur – Turris – Zibanejad
Greening – Smith – Neil
Hoffman – Pageau – Condra
Subs: Kassian, Conacher
Line 1: This just seems too easy to put together, so expect Michalek to slip on a donut in the dressing room and force MacLean to call for Greening again, or even the unthinkable... which would be Spezza and Ryan having no chemistry. I can’t see that happening but stranger things have occurred... like Spezza and Michalek having no chemistry dating back several years. Yet this just seems like the right fit on paper going into the season and could be a hell of a line.
Line 2: We all know it’s going to be Turris in the middle, but I like the idea of making Zibanejad a winger right now. It allows Smith to stay at centre on the third line and loads a lot of skill into the top-6. Turris had some success with Alfie on his right side, so why not put in the young Swedish horse there this year and see what develops?
Line 3: You gotta have a grind line and this fits pretty good. Smith and Greening can both play a shutdown game with their size and Neil does a bit of everything . Plus, Smith seems to shrink when he’s shifted to the wing but thrives going up against big centres. Think of the battles this trio will get into with bigger, physical teams like the Leafs and the Bruins. Not that Alfie and the Red Wings will be given a pass. Neil “joked” on the Team 1200 when asked if he’ll hit the former captain by saying “For sure. I’ll text him before the game and tell him to blow his nose so I don’t get snot on my jersey”.
Line 4: Now it gets sketchy. Condra is a lock, but nobody else can say the same. Pageau is awfully small and skilled for a fourth centre it’s his job to lose at the moment. As for Hoffman over Conacher, I always account for one surprise every training camp and I think this is going to be it. It’s just a hunch, but Hoffman’s speed is so ridiculous and Conacher’s short stint with the team was so underwhelming, that I can smell an upset here. Of course, Conacher has had more success than Hoffman at the NHL level and he’s the favourite to stick, but I’ve always liked Hoffman (what little I’ve seen of him) so I’ll live dangerously. Kassian will go in there more than most people realize as both Bryan Murray and Paul MacLean like having that threat in the lineup during the regular season. Kassian may not be able to skate with Pageau or convert too many 2-on1’s, but he’s going to be like his big brother named Chongo and won’t let the kid be menaced by anyone out on the ice.
I’m sure you disagree with my lines completely, so go ahead and give me an earful.