The Leafs placed oft-injured winger Colby Armstrong on unconditional waivers today in an effort to buy the 29-year old out of the last year of his contract. Armstrong arrived through free agency in 2010, but never had the impact that his $3.0 million dollar / year contract commanded. Instead of having Armstrong eat the $3.0 million in cap space this year, the Maple Leafs opted to buy him out, saving $2.0 million in cap space this season, and $1.0 million actual cash.
We’re unsure at this point if the fresh roster spot will go to a young player like Matt Frattin, or if the money will go towards a UFA signing.
Either way, both parties needed to head in separate directions and this move accomplishes that.
The Toronto Maple Leafs announced Wednesday that they have recalled forward Carter Ashton from the Toronto Marlies of the AHL. Ashton was previously acquired from the Tampa Bay Lightning at the trade deadline for defenseman Keith Aulie.
Ashton has a goal and an assist in three games since joining the Marlies, 20g-17a for the year.
Forwards Joffrey Lupul (Wrist) and Colby Armstrong (Nose) were both injured last night against the Boston Bruins, thus Ashton’s callup. It is unknown at this point if and where Ashton will slot in to the lineup tonight against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
This is the Leafs’ 4th and last callup allowed after the trade deadline. The first two were used on Matt Frattin and Jake Gardiner so that they were eligible to be on the Toronto Marlies clear day roster. The third was used to recall forward Jay Rosehill. The Leafs may only recall a player at this point in emergency situations.
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.
As I speculated yesterday, the Leafs have recalled forward Darryl Boyce from the Toronto Marlies of the AHL. Boyce, who saw extended time with the club last year, was demoted at the beginning of the season and told to continue to work on his game. This season, Boyce has amassed 10 points in 22 games with the Marlies, adding 22 PIMs as well. Boyce will most likely directly take Colby Armstrong‘s place on the third line, so there shouldn’t be too much line shuffling.
Boyce should bolster the lineup defensively, and might be able to add some offensive pop to the third line. Armstrong has just 1 point in 9 games played this season.
Who do you think should have been recalled? Why?
Coach Ron Wilson revealed after the game today that forward Colby Armstrong has a concussion and will be out of the lineup indefinitely. This means the team will likely have to recall a forward to fill his spot, unless they decide to skate Jay Rosehill and/or Colton Orr.
Wilson revealed that Armstrong suffered the concussion in a collision with Canucks forward Ryan Kesler over the weekend. He failed to notify anyone that the he could have been concussed until he became nauseous and began vomiting earlier in the day.
Interesting note coming from Dirty Dangle Hockey on Twitter : “This is Colby Armstrong’s 5th different injury since joining the Toronto Maple Leafs and he’s now missed 56 out of 115 games or 49% of games”.
You can’t ignore the fact that Colby Armstrong has not been much of a factor for the Maple Leafs considering his injuries. Many were concerned at the money given to him when he was signed, even then assuming he would actually play. Now that he has missed basically half of the games since he joined the club, it may be a different story all together.
This brings us to the question of which player gets recalled from the Marlies. Most likely, the Leafs will recall a player to play bottom six minutes with the team. Someone like Joey Crabb or Philippe Dupuis could move up to the third line, paving the way for a defensive player like Darryl Boyce or Mike Zigomanis to come up. Or, they could go with the safe/predictable move and recall the much-travelled Nazem Kadri. Or, nothing at all. We’ll know by this time tomorrow.
They say don’t put the cart before the horse, but tonight the Toronto Maple Leafs will take the two points and move on. Although unspectacular throughout most of the game, the Leafs were able to mount a third period comeback and force overtime, eventually besting the revived Jets in the shootout.
Tonight’s game was disheartening and frustrating to watch for a few reasons. It seemed at times the Leafs couldn’t make a pass, clumsily dishing the puck around their own zone and behind forced back behind their own net. They were very much clogged in the neutral zone, and often could not get their cycle game going.
Their defensive effort was not much better. Lost man coverage and impulsive decisions in their own end often led to scoring chances, which James Reimer handled quite well. In my opinion, Reimer had a good game. The first goal, scored by Tobias Enstrom, was through a medley of screening teammates, so you can’t fault him there. Alexander Burmistrov‘s goal was a pretty one; Nik Antropov forced the puck outside and around the net, then dished it in front for the roofjob. A tough play for any goaltender. Lastly, Mark Scheifele‘s first NHL goal came after the Leafs (cough, Mike Komisarek, cough) gave up another penalty, and was the result of a scramble play rebound. Reimer should have had the rebound better, but on the other hand there was no support around him.
Fear not however, as there were some positives to be found yet in the win. The Tyler Bozak – Phil Kessel – Joffrey Lupul line continues to dominate. When I say dominate, I really mean dominate. Kessel now has 12 points in 5 games (7g – 5a). His 7 goals account for approximately 41% of the 17 the team has accumulated to date. Lupul tallied two goals tonight, destroying the net camera with a one-timer, and having one bounce through Ondrej Pavelec‘s legs via an Enstrom deflection. We’re perhaps seeing glimpses of the scorer Lupul once was (and still has the potential to be) with his hot start (7 points, 4g – 3a in 5 GP).
The real gem here is Phil “The Thrill” Kessel. This year, he does it all. Aside from scoring pretty goals every game, Kessel has also found success in dishing the puck. For example, in tonight’s game he made the smart move and fed the puck to a wide open Lupul who slapped it into the gaping net. In the past, Kessel would have looked for a shot. He probably would have missed, or it would have deflected out of play. Tonight he dishes the puck and ties the game at ones. You can truly see that Kessel’s game is evolving. His offensive prowess has always been there, the rest is finally piecing itself together.
Other quick thoughts on tonight’s game:
- The Nikolai Kulemin – Mikhail Grabovski – Clarke MacArthur line needs a spark. They’re trying their creative drop-passing and weaving but it’s not connecting right now. They need to simplify and pot a few. With MacA missing the end of the game, rookie Matt Frattin returned to the trio and you could see the line was instantly better. Perhaps MacA is a bit rusty still?
- Luke Schenn didn’t have an impressive game. He made some dumb moves with the puck that often resulted in opposing scoring chances. Cody Franson needs to draw in the lineup again. I’d say replace Schenn with Franson but then there’s Komisarek, who had his worst game this season. Two consecutive penalties along with killing a few offensive chances just scratch the surface of the type of game he had. I’d swap Komisarek for Franson, but then again I’m not the coach.
- Jake Gardiner had a solid game for the Leafs. His skating proved valuable, often helping him out of tight defensive situations. He also created offense, leading rushes and setting up a few scoring chances. Pierre Lebrun wonders how you would ever take him out of the lineup again. I share the sentiment, he adds a dimension the Leafs severely need with their lack of secondary scoring.
- David Steckel won 16 of 18 draws tonight, good for 88.9%. The Leafs have earned a point in every game since acquiring Steckel. Need I say more?
- Lupul and Frattin in the shootout: cheddar snipes.
It was revealed during the game that Colby Armstrong and Clarke MacArthur were injured. After the game it was announced that Armstrong would miss the upcoming road trip, while MacArthur would make the trip and was considered day-to-day. Armstrong’s injury doesn’t bode very well for the Leafs, who are often a better team with him than without. The injures come at somewhat of a good time.
Tomorrow night’s tilt is with Boston, a team that isn’t shy to drop the mitts. You can be sure Wilson will want to dress Jay Rosehill and/or Colton Orr in anticipation of some physical stuff tomorrow night, considering what happened with Carolina the other night. If I’m Wilson I’d dress this lineup:
Lupul – Bozak – Kessel
Kulemin – Grabovski – Frattin
MacArthur – Lombardi – Dupuis
Orr – Steckel – Brown
Injecting Orr gives added toughness. Frattin sparked Grabo and Kulemin, so try it again to start tomorrow night. MacA drops to the third line (if he can dress) or move Mike Brown up and dress Rosehill.
Goalie Jonas Gustavsson gets his first start of the season tomorrow night in Boston.
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Changes must come for this Toronto team. I don’t just mean it in terms of personnel due to injuries for the next game. Special teams will make or break success this season, and so far they haven’t been good enough. Tonight the PP started off flat, but was given some life when Steckel replaced Bozak with Lupul and Kessel. Perhaps they should try this for a few more games until Tim Connolly is ready to return.
In other news, forward Nazem Kadri was assigned to the Toronto Marlies. I feel it’s the right move, given his injury and the relative success of the team. There will be injuries (as we witnessed tonight) and he will get his chance. No one’s given up on him yet, and that’s important to note.
After a couple solid, albeit one nerve-racking, wins to start the season, the Maple Leafs appear to have some swagger that hasn’t been seen since Mats Sundin flanked Jonas Hoglund and Mikael Renberg a decade ago. Optimism is at an all time high throughout Leaf nation as the team gets through a relatively easy opening couple weeks of the season. The questions never seem to end, however, and with the Leafs quality depth (that’s not an oxymoron anymore!) as the Leafs get healthier and less-suspended there is a shortage of roster spots and ice time for players. It appears that amongst all speculation that Brian Burke is hovering around the trigger on a potential trade, but is it really necessary right now? Let’s break this down.
Up front is the primary concern as Clarke MacArthur comes back from his suspension, Nazem Kadri‘s knee is healing quicker than initially speculated, and it would be reasonable to assume we’ll see a Tim Connolly appearance sometime in the next week and a half. Combine that with the unexpected recovery and quality play from Matthew Lombardi and the Leafs have a shocking number of centres available. So where do you put them all? Firstly, Kadri has to start in the minors as Matt Frattin‘s solid two-way play has earned him the right to stay with Leafs for now. It can’t hurt Naz to get up to speed with the Marlies, get big time minutes, work on his defensive game and if he truly dominates the AHL then that will show he needs to be in the NHL. At that point, whether it be a few weeks or a few months, Burke has a better idea to get better trade value from other teams. Very rarely will teams make a substantial deal at this point in the season. This of course only goes with the assumption that the team isn’t struggling and in need of a shake-up, but with the team’s play thus far it’s hard to imagine that there isn’t a combination of lines with this current group that can’t do well enough.
Let’s face it, Connolly likely won’t be the iron man once he heals up from his flavour of the month injury and it wouldn’t be smart to have Lombardi play in every game as the season wears on. Combine that with responsible play of Tyler Bozak, and you have three centres that are capable of playing the pivot between Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul or Frattin and Colby Armstrong. Any combination of those sets of wingers with those centres has some offensive upside with defensive capability. It’s also important to recognize that the Leafs now have a quality fourth line in more of a Brian Burke mold. Jay Rosehill and Colton Orr are excellent for spot starts when toughness is needed, and a line of David Steckel – Philippe Dupuis - Mike Brown has an excellent balance. Since MacArthur counts towards a roster spot despite being suspended, that requires only one roster move to make room for Connolly when he’s healthy. When that happens, it would be smart to send down Rosehill and carry those extra centres. This gives good options to match up the line-up on a nightly basis depending on the opponent, as well as gives the opporunity for some more injury prone players to rest for a night if they’re banged up.
On the defensive side, it’s nice to see Toronto finally have a glut of NHL-ready defencemen. Keith Aulie was already sent down to the Marlies to make room for stand-out Jake Gardiner; Mike Komiserek for all purposes hasn’t been terrible; Cody Franson is a big mobile, puck mover who can run a secondary powerplay unit; and Carl Gunnarson has been nothing short of solid. While I agree Aulie deserves to be with the big club after a great debut last season, letting him earn his way back on to the Leafs roster is the best bet. It’s not a bad thing to let the likes of Komi and Gunnar play since it will only boost their trade value if they play well. If not, it’s good to know there are guys ready to answer the call if a shake up is needed. And let’s not forget injuries happen and when they strike the Leafs blue line, we’ll be thankful for this depth.
At this point, Ron Wilson has many options to put a line-up together that can compete with any team in the league on any given night. This capability injects some excitement that hasn’t been found in nearly a decade since the Leafs last made the playoffs.
Yesterday the Toronto Maple Leafs announced that they had cut 14 more players from their training camp roster, assigning them to the Toronto Marlies of the AHL. The most significant of the cuts was forward Joe Colborne, who was considered to be in contention for a roster spot.
The full list of cuts is as follows. All players were assigned to the Toronto Marlies (AHL).
Assigned to Toronto (AHL) : Luca Caputi, Joe Colborne, Jerry D’Amigo, Ryan Hamilton, Marcel Mueller, Kenny Ryan, Greg Scott, Mike Zigomanis, Jesse Blacker, Jeff Finger, Simon Gysbers, Korbinian Holzer, Juraj Mikus, Mark Owuya, Jussi Rynnas.
The Leafs also announced that they had returned forward Greg McKegg to the Erie Otters of the OHL.
Luca Caputi, Ryan Hamilton, Mike Zigomanis and Jeff Finger will all have to clear waivers to be assigned to the AHL.
While there are still more important cuts to be made, you can tell that the Leafs roster is beginning to take shape. The following players remain in camp:
I’ve predicted who I personally think will be cut once the season rolls around, based on keeping two defenders and one forward scratched.
- Matthew Lombardi either slots in the lineup as a center or winger, which effectively forces Matt Frattin and Nazem Kadri to the minors. If he’s injured to start the season, Darryl Boyce plays in his stead.
- The Leafs will opt to go with 8 defensemen. My guess is that Keith Aulie and Mike Komisarek will sit.
- Phillipe Dupuis will win fourth line center duties. He’s a fearless shot blocker, speedy and throws his weight around. He’ll be flanked by Mike Brown and Colton Orr. If Brownie is a no-go opening night, look for Boyce to play in that hole.
- The Leafs third line will eventually be Lombardi with Tyler Bozak and Colby Armstrong.
- If both Lombardi and Brown are both injured to start the season, the Leafs will keep Jay Rosehill around. He’ll patrol the ice with Orr until Brown is healthy. Boyce will play on the third line. Notice how Boyce is very versatile.