Leafs experiment with JVR at center

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This past weekend saw Dave Bolland get knocked out of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ lineup indefinitely while Tyler Bozak was placed on the LTIR, leaving the team dangerously thin at center. Sometimes that means improvising, which is why it shouldn’t be too surprising that Randy Carlyle is experimenting with different setups, most notably moving James van Riemsdyk to center.

Carlyle had a blunt explanation for the Toronto Sun on Monday.

“He has played there before, so it does not take rocket science to go in that direction,” Carlyle said. “We think he is more of the fit right now.”

The Toronto Sun points out that JVR played down the middle during two seasons of his NCAA career. Toronto also gave the 24-year-old a “long look” at the pivot spot when they acquired him, but ultimately opted against moving him from the wing.

The Maple Leafs’ lengthy layoff until Friday gives them time to see if the talented American can get acquainted with that new role. He hasn’t been awful in faceoffs – albeit in small sample sizes – since joining the Buds, so it could be an OK stopgap in that regard.*

Of course, that gap of time could allow Toronto GM Dave Nonis to add a center via a transaction. TSN’s Darren Dreger said the team’s in the market for a forward, especially a center, which is far from shocking.

Cap space-wise, it might be easier to make a trade, but free agency could be worth considering too. A guy like Vinny Prospal is still looking for work, for one.

This is certainly not an ideal situations for the Maple Leafs, yet at least they have options.

* – Obviously there are bigger concerns than draws, as centers tend to carry the heaviest defensive workloads of the three forward positions.