It isn’t often that Brian Burke and Ron Wilson opt to take the safe route, but that seems to be what the Leafs GM-head coach duo did in tabbing John Mitchell for a roster spot ahead of Christian Hanson, Luca Caputi and Nazem Kadri.
Mitchell didn’t impress anyone in training camp and looked to be on the outs with Hanson, Caputi and Tim Brent having better camps. But the third-year veteran would have had to clear waivers in order to be sent down, whereas the younger Leafs-to-be did not. Burke and Wilson also felt that they would be better served earning more minutes with the Toronto Marlies than playing sparingly on the big club’s fourth line.
That being said, it may not be a long stint in the minors for the youngsters. Mike Zigomanis, currently holding a roster spot as one of the team’s 13 forwards, was placed on waivers along with Jay Rosehill and defenceman Danny Richmond. If he is claimed by tomorrow’s 12:00 noon deadline, the Leafs will bring back up one of the final cuts, likely either Hanson or Caputi.
Even as he prepares to assume the third- or fourth-line pivot role in time for Thursday’s season opener, Mitchell should hardly be celebrating. His place on the team was referred to by Burke as a “reprieve”. If he can’t pick up his listless game, Leafs brass will have little choice but to demote him and risk losing him via waiver claim.
On the blue line, the loss of Richmond and lingering injuries keeping Brett Lebda and Matt Lashoff out of the line-up mean that Jeff Finger will find himself in the opening night line-up, likely as a seventh defenceman.
As expected, goaltender Jussi Rynnas was also demoted and will likely be the Marlies’ starter.
Opening Night Line-Up:
Forwards: Kris Versteeg, Tyler Bozak, Phil Kessel, Nikolai Kulemin, Mikhail Grabovski, Clarke MacArthur, Colby Armstrong, Tim Brent, Frederik Sjostrom, Colton Orr, John Mitchell, Mike Brown, Mike Zigomanis (for now)
Defenceman: Luke Schenn, Dion Phaneuf, Mike Komisarek, Tomas Kaberle, Francois Beauchemin, Carl Gunnarrson, Jeff Finger
Goaltenders: Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Jonas Gustavsson
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Written by Ben Fisher