Phaneuf Returns, Now What?


The big question that will need to be answered by Ron Wilson and company over the next couple of games is who sits?  With the return of captain Dion Phaneuf the Maple Leafs officially have a logjam on the backend and not only will one of Keith Aullie, Carl Gunnarsson or Mike Komisarek have to sit but a guy like Francois Beauchemin might also be forced into a less meaningful role.

Will this finally force the hand of Brian Burke and the need to move some of the excess bodies and salary on our backend?

The Leafs top six heading into the new season was seen to look like this:

Dion PhaneufFrancois Beauchemin
Luke SchennTomas Kaberle
Mike KomisarekBrett Lebda

You could argue Carl Gunnarsson was to be the sixth defenseman but it appeared early if Lebda hadn’t been hurt he would’ve gotten the nod more consistently, plus Gunner was playing pretty awful.  The Leafs over the past few weeks have seen their defense core look mostly like this:

Luke SchennTomas Kaberle
Keith AullieFrancois Beauchemin
Mike KomisarekCarl Gunnarsson

I think we will all agree that Keith Aullie has been a pleasant surprise considering his lack of experience at the NHL level and it will be a hard sell to keep him out of the line-up considering the ongoing struggles of veterans Beauchemin and Komisarek.  Will the Leafs have the guts to sit out Komisarek and his 4+ million dollar salary when it is painfully clear to most that follow the team that he is probably the worst defenseman on our NHL roster right now?

As I see, the new defense pairings should be as follows:

Luke SchennTomas Kaberle
Keith AullieDion Phaneuf
Francois BeaucheminCarl Gunnarsson

It would take even more guts to demote “Beauch” to the third pairing but all things considered equal, in my opinion the above represents that absolute best pairings for the time being.  Sitting both Brett Lebda and Mike Komisarek simply make the team better, and in the case of Komisarek demoting his salary to the AHL would be a godsend to fiscal sanity, though very unlikely.

I think at this point it would be crazy to not let Gunner and Aullie continue to play meaningful minutes at the NHL level to continue their hopeful development into strong NHL calibre defenseman.  That third pairing could be Beauch and Komi but talk about a waste of resources, that would be 8+ million tied up on your third pairing – yikes.

I don’t see a storybook ending to the Komisarek/Toronto relationship but I also don’t see Brian Burke overly willing to place one of his prized acquisitions in the minors either, who knows how this thing will end.

What is your ideal situation for the Leafs blue line?  Who sits, who plays, who gets the top minutes, assignments and will the Leafs be able to deal either Mike Komisarek or Francois Beauchemin?