Luca Caputi probably should have made this Leafs team right out of training camp, as he had four points in six preseason games and has the sort of size they could use up front.
After 10 games, not only is Caputi on the team, he's been bumped onto the "top" line with Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel.
Ron Wilson loves to juggle his lines, especially when the Leafs struggle, and given all of their stuggles since he landed here as coach, we've seen essentially every line combination possible the past couple of seasons. This year's group has been left relatively untouched, especially in the early going when they were winning, but with only seven goals in their last six games and a couple injuries and callups, that's changed.
Below is the lineup as it stands for tomorrow's game against the Senators, with a few words (and full audio) from Wilson after that.
Caputi - Bozak - Kessel MacArthur - Grabovski - Kulemin Brown - Brent - Versteeg Sjostrom - Hanson - Orr Mitchell
Beauchemin - Phaneuf Schenn - Kaberle Gunnarsson - Komisarek Lebda
Caputi has played only two games with the Leafs since being recalled and 12:47 ice time a game. Expect that to get a big bump against Ottawa as Wilson continues to go to operation "stand in front of the net" as a way to generate some offence.
"There are teams that have good net-front presence and we've studied what their players do," Wilson said after practice today. "Our players, this morning, we watched a lot of it and tried to get better net-front presence."
As for who his go-to men in front will be, Wilson has a few candidates in mind.
"Caputi, Kulemin, maybe even put Dion in front of the other teams' net occassionally on the power play because he's pretty good at deflecting pucks and things like that," he said.
The naysayers out there are going to poke fun at this decision, but Caputi does have an offensive pedigree in junior (where he had 111 points as a 19-year-old) and the minors (where he has been a point-a-game guy at an early age, generally an indication a player can contribute offence in the NHL on some level) and he has some size at 6-foot-3 and just over 200 pounds.
Given Wilson's options, this isn't a bad idea. Toronto desperately needs someone with a little more of a physical mindset to offset the soft play of someone like Bozak. The Leafs also can't get any worse offensively than they've been of late.
"He knows what his job is - get in hard on the forecheck, go hard to the net," Wilson said of Caputi.
With Caputi moving up, Versteeg is the one getting demoted to the third line, where the hope is that he can continue to recover from his back injury and rediscover his game. Versteeg's had a hard time adjusting to all of the ice time Wilson's heaped on him and may benefit from playing less and in a situation where he's not expected to be a go-to offensive player.
"The goals will come if we stick to the plan," Wilson said.