It is a short-term move born out of desperation. And yet, it is a move that has been in the works for a long time, at least since the Toronto Maple Leafs acquired James van Riemsdyk more than 16 months ago. Make no mistake, the decision to move van Riemsdyk from the wing to the centre is only happening because Tyler Bozak and Dave Bolland are both out with long-term injuries, and the team really has no other options. But if necessity is the mother of invention, then perhaps this can be the start of something bigger. Maybe the Leafs, who toyed with the idea of playing van Riemsdyk down the middle a year ago, will fluke upon something here. Maybe the 24-year-old, who has evolved into the player that the Philadelphia Flyers hoped he would be when they selected him second overall in 2007, will become the No. 1 centre Toronto has been searching for. “I’m just looking to play where the team wants me to play. Wing, centre, defence, whatever,” said van Riemsdyk, who is unsure of how this experiment will unravel. “I don’t think this was part of the master plan.” Maybe not. But it is not like it is completely crazy concept either. Van Riemsdyk has some experience at centre. He played the position for two years in college, moving from the wing after current Leaf Trevor Smith left the University of New Hampshire. He is also fairly decent in the faceoff circle, going 5-for-10 this season and winning 49.2% (31-for-63) of the faceoffs that he has taken in his career. In other words, no one is asking van Riemsdyk to do something that he has never done. “He’s played there before,” head coach Randy Carlyle said, “so it doesn’t take rocket science to go in that direction.”
Is James van Riemdyk the answer at centre for desperate Toronto Maple Leafs?
National Post | Nov 5