January. The second half of a long season begins as teams begin to converse about potential deals that would seemingly put them over the top, or to restock their cupboards. For many years, this Leafs team has been assuming a seller’s standpoint at this point, but this year it seems the trend will end. With 47 points (21-15-5) in 41 games, the Leafs are on pace for a 94 point season, which should be barely enough to squeak them into the playoffs for the first time since the lockout. To put this into perspective, the Leafs had 38 points (16-20-5) after the same amount of games last year. Playoff-bound? Still too early to tell, but it’s a baby step in the right direction, that’s for sure.
Since the last time I wrote, the Leafs made many rosters moves, and here’s a little recap incase you forgot.
- Korbinian Holzer bounced from the NHL to the AHL, nothing worth commenting about though.
- Maligned forward Luca Caputi was traded to the Anaheim Ducks for forward Nicolas Deschamps, more on that later.
- Philippe Dupuis was demoted to the Toronto Marlies. Now I don’t have to worry about spelling his name wrong anymore.
- Colton Orr‘s time as a Leaf is finished. He passed through waivers, and was demoted to the Toronto Marlies (AHL).
- Matt Frattin was demoted in favour of keeping Nazem Kadri, and in order to accomodate Mike Brown‘s return. More on this later too.
- Returning to the lineup were Mike Komisarek, Matthew Lombardi and Mike Brown.
- Tyler Bozak suffered an injury on the 30th, and should be out for a few games longer.
- John-Michael Liles remains out, so too does Colby Armstrong.
Luca Caputi and Nicolas Deschamps
At times, it was easy to forget about Luca Caputi, aside from his presence on Twitter. He had fallen so far down the depth chart due to lackadaisical play and injuries that this trade seems almost insignificant. In Caputi, the Leafs are losing a big bodied forward who at one time was coveted due to his size and scoring combination. Now, he’s effectively a grinder, but struggles in this role due to poor skating. It’s a wonder we even acquired anything in return other than a late round pick.
In Deschamps, the Leafs are acquiring a prospect which the Ducks deemed was expendable in order to acquire players closer to contributing at the professional level.
Deschamps, a former second round pick of the Ducks (Burke’s own pick as well) had less than impressive numbers this year (34GP – 6G – 8A) after posting decent numbers last year with the Syracuse Crunch (80GP – 15G – 31A). He wasn’t a prolific junior scorer, as are most offensive players in the QMJHL, but still shows some decent upside in terms of work ethic and finding the net.
At this point, the trade gives both players a change of scenery, with the Leafs opting to trade for a player and give him some more time to develop, as opposed to Caputi who was in need of a new contract and could no longer be labeled ‘prospect’.
The End of Orr
I won’t delve too far into this, it would take a lot of time and effort to get to the true underlying issues of fighting, heavyweights and the direction the league is taking. When Brian Burke signed Orr to his contract, he envisioned Orr patrolling the fourth line, playing as decently as an enforcer can (which he did quite well) and reminding other teams not to take liberties with his teammates. Three years later, Colton Orr no longer has a job. Fights do not exist as they once did; players take liberties and skirt away from their traditional consequences, and this makes Brian Burke (an astute traditionalist) furious. Orr’s roll is now filled by Jay Rosehill / Mike Brown: guys who skate faster, can contribute more offensively, and play bigger roles defensively. Also, they cost less than Orr’s $1.00 million cap hit.
Orr now skates for the Toronto Marlies (AHL) and we wish him the best of luck.
On Matt Frattin and Nazem Kadri
Firstly, I’ll say this. The Leafs have two good, young players in Nazem Kadri and Matt Frattin. They will both be offensive contributors at the NHL level one day. However, at this point in time, given the situation at other spots in the lineup, only one of the two can remain with the big club. Nazem Kadri, since being brought up, has shown that he is ready for prime time, and has been a factor in almost all aspects of the game, including the scoresheet (for all you people that judge a players value solely on his statistics). He effectively bumped Matt Frattin (who has been good, but not as good as Kadri as of late) down to the fourth line. With Mike Brown set to return, Frattin was demoted to the Toronto Marlies (AHL) so that he could play top line minutes and continue to hone his offensive game. Brown – more suited to the fourth line role – adds a defensive element that Frattin does not have, while keeping the speed and tenacity status quo. A lateral move? Perhaps. The effects of the move are primarily for the long term, as opposed to the short.
The Return of Brown, Komisarek and Lombardi
While refreshing to have Brown and Komisarek back from injury, I can’t say I’m too pleased that Matthew Lombardi is returning to the lineup. I haven’t seen much from him that I’ve liked, or made me think “wow”. He plays hard, but brings little to no impact on a nightly basis. He scored a shorthanded goal in the season opener against Montreal, but hasn’t done much since then. He’s never been an offensive juggernaut, but has a measly 7 points in 23 games, well below his standard output.
Hate if you must, but Mike Komisarek has played decently this year. He’ll never impress you with an offensive play or slick pass out of his own zone, but he’s steady when he’s on his game, and he’s definitely been better this year.
You all know what Mike Brown brings to the table, that’s what makes him a fan favourite.