Assessing Leafs' lineup options with Tavares injured
Mark Blinch / National Hockey League / Getty

The Toronto Maple Leafs suffered a devastating blow Thursday, as captain John Tavares will miss a minimum of two weeks with a broken finger.

For the top-heavy Maple Leafs, losing one of their elite centers stings a little more than it might for any other club. The 29-year-old scored a career-high 47 goals last season and was riding a four-game point streak in the early stages of this campaign.

There is now a gaping hole down the middle of Toronto's lineup. It appears unlikely the Maple Leafs will recall a forward, so let's take a look at the players who are already on the roster and determine the team's best options moving forward, in no particular order:

Option 1: Spezza gets bigger role

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LW C RW
Andreas Johnsson Auston Matthews William Nylander
Ilya Mikheyev Alexander Kerfoot Mitch Marner
Trevor Moore Jason Spezza Kasperi Kapanen
Dmytro Timashov Frederik Gauthier Nick Shore
Nic Petan

The Maple Leafs' best line of Johnsson, Matthews, and Nylander stays intact in this shuffle. Kerfoot has played well in his first season with the club and gets rewarded with a promotion to the top six and a chance to play with Marner.

Spezza has been in head coach Mike Babcock's dog house since his arrival this summer, but he'd get to play in a more offensive role on the team's third line. The 36-year-old doesn't move around the ice as quickly as he used to but would be flanked by two speedy, hard-working wingers in Moore and Kapanen. Moore and Mikheyev could also easily be flipped in any of these scenarios.

Option 2: Goat gets rewarded

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LW C RW
Andreas Johnsson Auston Matthews William Nylander
Ilya Mikheyev Alexander Kerfoot Mitch Marner
Trevor Moore Frederik Gauthier Kasperi Kapanen
Dmytro Timashov Jason Spezza Nic Petan
Nick Shore

The top six from Option 1 remain the same here. The big difference is that Gauthier gets a chance to center the team's third line. "The Goat" has played surprisingly well this season and seemed to earn the trust of Babcock, as he's played in all eight of the team's games while the other fourth-liners rotate.

Gauthier's offensive ceiling is severely limited, though, and he's probably better in a fourth-line role despite his strong play in the early going.

We've also inserted Petan into the lineup as there's no longer a need for Shore's right-handed faceoff abilities with Spezza back on the fourth line.

Option 3: Nylander moves to center

Kevin Sousa / National Hockey League / Getty
LW C RW
Andreas Johnsson Auston Matthews Mitch Marner
Ilya Mikheyev William Nylander Kasperi Kapanen
Trevor Moore Alexander Kerfoot Jason Spezza
Dmytro Timashov Frederik Gauthier Nick Shore
Nic Petan

Option 3 makes for the biggest shake-up. We've moved Nylander to his natural position of center and split up the top line. Though he's probably better suited for the wing, Nylander has performed adequately here in the past. This gives the team its best possible center depth, as it moves Kerfoot back down to the third line.

This also gives Matthews and Marner a rare chance to play together at five-on-five. Babcock has been reluctant to do so since the pair entered the league in 2016, but this could be the best time to see if it works for an extended period.

Like Option 1, Spezza gets a top-nine role in this scenario, though he's handed far less responsibility playing on the wing.

Who goes to the top power play?

Kevin Sousa / National Hockey League / Getty

With new assistant coaches, Toronto's power play has featured a new look this year. Defenseman Morgan Rielly remains at the point, but Marner and Matthews flipped sides to be in better shooting positions. Tavares moved from in front of the net to the slot/bumper position, and Johnsson is in front of the net.

Tavares' absence changes things. The most logical solution is to promote Nylander to the No. 1 power play. He's the team's most skilled - and perhaps deserving - player who's not on the top unit, and could easily slide into Tavares' spot.

Blue-liner Tyson Barrie also provides an intriguing option after racking up 25 power-play points with the Colorado Avalanche last season. He could give the top unit a right-handed one-timer from the left half-wall, which would force Marner to move into the middle where Tavares was. This would require Jake Muzzin to play the point on the second power-play unit.

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Assessing Leafs' lineup options with Tavares injured
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