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.
On Wednesday morning the Leafs announced that they have called up forward Carter Ashton with their most recent plethora of injuries from last night’s game. We can all breathe a sigh of relief as the “savior” to our playoff dreams has now come. All kidding aside, Leaf fans will get to watch one of our youngest prospects play in his first NHL game of what hopes to be a long and successful career.
Since being acquired for defenceman Keith Aulie at the trade deadline, Ashton has looked great with the Marlies putting up a goal and an assist, as well as 8 penalty minutes in 3 games played. It is not known yet where the 20 year old will suit up in terms of line arrangements, however it is speculated that a 2nd line role alongside centerman Mikhail Grabovski is where he may be suiting up. Some may wonder why Nazem Kadri or Joe Colborne failed to get the call instead; but the matter is simple, they had their shot and Ashton has had a wonderful year in the AHL, so it is his turn. Not to mention, Ashton brings a physical dimension to his game which Burke and Carlyle love.
Puck drop tonight is at 7:30 pm et as the Leafs visit the Pens. Lets hope Ashton can spark the team as these next few games are essentially playoff games and must win scenarios in order to get back into a playoff position. GO LEAFS GO.
Listening to Maple Leafs’ Vice President of Hockey Operations, Dave Poulin, brought about some interesting thoughts as we wind our way toward this year’s edition of the NHL Trade Deadline. During his conversation, Poulin talked about building a team and an organization as you would a house and property. The analogy is one that speaks to patience and careful planning, something that is necessary for any successful front office staff, when it comes to building a winning product.
Looking at the foundation upon which the house that Burke and Co. has put together, it’s easy to forget that before Burke was brought to Toronto to lead the organization, it would have been difficult to look through the organizational depth chart, and find a solid pillar for the future. Since his arrival, Burke has made a number of moves to improve a talent pool that was on serious life support in terms of young talent. Through drafting alone (something that Burke has taken heat for in his time here), Burke has added first round picks in the likes of forwards Nazem Kadri and Tyler Biggs, as well as the smart, economical defenseman, Stuart Percy from the Mississauga Majors. He supplemented those selections with picks from rounds 2-7 with promising youngsters such as Gregg McKegg, Sondre Olden, Josh Nicholls, and Bradley Ross. Burke and Co. have approached the draft with a clear strategy, adding size and skill to the prospect pool, and for better or worse, fans of the organization are soon to see these selections given the chance to show their stuff at the AHL level.
The most important thing that Burke and his team of executives have done in his 4-year tenure with the Blue and White is add cornerstones through trade. The much-debated trade for Phil Kessel was the first major move that Burke made, adding a cornerstone talent to the organization, in a move that divided the fan base. Kessel’s talent is not in question, and shouldn’t be at this point, given that he currently sits among the top-5 in league scoring. In landing Phil, Burke surrendered two first round selections, and a second round selection to the Boston Bruins, and allowed the Bruins to land Tyler Seguin, Jared Knight and defenseman Dougie Hamilton. The miscalculation of the team’s ability at the time of the trade is well known, and is the subject of the on-going argument among fans as to whether or not the trade was beneficial to the club’s long term success. Whether or not you believe in the move, Burke added the missing piece from the Sundin era, the high scoring winger.
The second pillar that was added was Captain Dion Phaneuf. In a trade that sent pieces like Matt Stajan and Jamal Mayers to Calgary, Burke was able to not only pry Dion, but talented young defenseman Keith Aulie. The addition of Aulie is what sweetened the pot. Calgary was looking to shake up their roster, and Burke was able to turn a mole hill’s worth of talent into a mountain-esque return. In Dion’s time here, we’ve seen the return of his offensive game, as he struggled in the early stages of his Leaf career. Keith Aulie remains one of the organizations top prospects, as he has seen time with both the Leafs and the Marlies, and continues to round out his trade to become a full-time NHL defenseman.
The last player to discuss, in terms of pillars, is one that is currently cementing his status as just that. Young defenseman Jake Gardiner, acquired as the incentive in the deal for Joffrey Lupul, has stepped into the spotlight this season, and is making his case for being a future top pairing defender. Gardiner has the ability to take over the play from the back-end, and on a number of occasions this season, has been the best player on the ice in Blue and White. His skating is some of the best on the team, and at times, Gardiner has displayed poise and patience beyond his years. As is the case with any young player making the transition to pro hockey, Gardiner has had problems with turnovers, and getting caught on the pinch, but increased trust and TOI awarded to him by the coaching staff has certainly paid off.
Honourable mentions would go to talents like Matt Frattin, who at times, has shown NHL ready ability on both the rush and the back check. Joe Colborne is yet another, added in the Kaberle trade, as well as Jesse Blacker, a defenseman chosen 58th overall in the 2009 draft.
Although not all of the young talent made this article, the point of the matter is this: Burke and his team have made great strides to not only build a foundation, but build pieces around it. Leading up to the deadline, in one week’s time, there will be a lot of pressure on management to acquire a key piece to help get the club into the playoffs for the first time since the lockout. As Poulin stated this morning, the key to the process is patience and poise, knowing that a move cannot be made unless it improves your house going forward in the long term. Given this model, it’s hard to imagine Burke mortgaging the future for Rick Nash, even if bringing home the GTA native would see his statue built in the front yard.
There were a few things noticeable in tonight’s game against the Winnipeg Jets, good and bad. We (the fans) can’t really complain much this season: the Leafs have played generally well and the achilles heel of years past – the defense – has looked breathtaking on most nights.
Still, the team is nowhere near perfect or close to being a Stanley Cup contender. We can all take solace in the giant steps the team has taken towards regaining a playoff spot. Heading into tonight’s contest with the Jets, the Leafs stood at a 90.05% chance of making the playoffs. Not a lock, but certainly looking good.
One of the most glaring deficiencies tonight was evident in the Leafs inability to handle the Jets’ speed on the outside.
On the first goal, Chris Thorburn was able to burn down the wing and throw a backhand on net. Evidently, Jonas Gustavsson should have had the shot but that doesn’t leave the defense in the clear either. Luke Schenn was at fault on the play. He’s not the fastest of skaters, but in this case he should have backed off a bit and played a bit more centralized. Still, should have been a more routine play by the goaltender.
The second goal saw more of the same, with Blake Wheeler barreling in on Gustavsson coming from the wing. His driving of the net allowed for a juicy rebound which Jim Slater was happy to tap in. On the play, Matthew Lombardi should have tied up his man, but it all happened pretty quickly, so you can’t be that upset with how it shook out.
Aside from the Leafs’ inability to deal with Winnipeg’s speed (to be fair, they’re playing the second night of a back-to-back) the other most glaring deficiency in tonight’s play was the team’s inability to deal with Winnipeg’s size and tenacity.
Winnipeg’s forwards would come in hard, banging and crashing our forwards and defensemen along the boards, winning battles and creating scoring chances. Usually, the Leafs’ speed out factors a team’s physicality, but tonight it was a sore sight to see. Again, it might be the product of playing on back to back nights but it has to be a cause for concern in the back of everyone’s mind.
It’s been the opinion of some media and fans lately that the Leafs should stand pat in light of recent success. Since when does a team that sits in seventh place – having missed the playoffs every year since the lockout – stand a better chance of winning without upgrading its lineup?
A move for a goaltender isn’t feasible this season, nor is it necessary. Gustavsson and James Reimer have proven capable of at least grabbing wins this season, and this can be re-visited in the offseason. The defense is very deep right now, leading to speculation that a trade would originate from the surplus. Word has it the Leafs feel Korbinian Holzer is ready to be a full time NHLer, and Keith Aulie has played successfully at the NHL level as well.
Any move the Leafs would potentially make would be aimed at upgrading their forwards. We’ve heard all year that Brian Burke has been itching to add some size and tenacity into his top six. The Leafs would definitely be upgrading their lineup by adding a scoring winger/center with size and a defensive forward for the bottom six. It all comes down to availability and price.
We’ve heard the rumoured names, we’ve talked about them endlessly, and we’ve debated their validity all season long. In the end, the Leafs could definitely stand to add a forward or two if they really want to try and achieve something in the postseason, otherwise they’re gunning for a first round failure.
With last night’s win against the Edmonton Oilers bringing the Toronto Maple Leafs playoffs chances to 90.05%, it looks as if the Maple Leafs are finally heading towards their first playoff berth since the NHL lockout. It’s never a good idea to assume anything, so I won’t be congratulating the boys on anything until we see an ‘x’ beside them in the standings.
Still, the success has to be coming from somewhere. Players finally developing and hitting their strides? Improved goaltending from both James Reimer and Jonas Gustavsson? The additions of Greg Cronin and Scott Gordon? Perhaps.
There’s no way to determine for sure what the cause is, that’s the beauty of sports. There are so many variables that go in to winning, it’s hard to pinpoint the driving force behind success. At best, we can make cases for aspects of improved play that have a part in the overall effect.
Today I want to look at the phenomena that is ‘scoring by defensemen’. As the season has unfolded, I’ve noticed a few distinct differences between this years team and those of seasons passed. One of the most glaring differences is the involvement of the defense in offensive production.
The chart doesn’t include Tomas Kaberle (3g – 35a – 38 pts) and Francois Beauchemin (2g – 10a – 12 pts). In total, the Maple Leafs defense scored 139 points. This may have been impacted by the fact Dion Phaneuf and Carl Gunnarsson both missed a good amount of games.
Obviously management saw this was an issue as well, as they tried hard to land John-Michael Liles at last year’s deadline. Ultimately, they acquired him before the NHL Entry Draft, but it was obvious the team wanted to improve their production from the back end. To supplement Liles’ addition, the team traded for young Cody Franson as well.
The offensive expectations coming into this season were obviously higher with a healthy Dion Phaneuf and Carl Gunnarsson along with the arrival of Liles and Franson. Luke Schenn was coming off a breakout year offensively, and Mike Komisarek was expected to be a healthy scratch most of the time in favour of Jake Gardiner. Gardiner, a noted offensive defensemen was expected to contribute along the blueline as well.
So, how have Maple Leaf defenders fared so far this season? Refer to the chart below:
First thing to address: Maple Leafs have scored a total of 122 points after just 53 games. They’re on pace for 189 points by the end of the 82 game schedule.
The second thing to look at is the amount of games missed by key players.
- John-Michael Liles missed 16 games to concussion
- Jake Gardiner has missed 7 games as a healthy scratch
- Cody Franson has missed 15 games as a healthy scratch
You have to imagine if those players (all considered mainstays in the lineup at this point) had played every game so far, they’d have a few more points. It’s no use speculating on what-ifs, but rather, we should acknowledge that there is a direct correlation between the increased offence generated by Maple Leafs defensemen and the success the team has seen this year.
At this point, it’s not known for sure whether or not the Leafs will make the playoffs, or even have consistent success for the rest of the season. All we can do is note that this year’s team is much better (wins and points wise) and it is no coincidence that the defensemen have played a bigger role offensively.
By the numbers: points by defensemen for Stanley Cup champions (regular season)
- 2011 Boston Bruins: 149 points by defensemen.
- 2010 Chicago Blackhawks: 222 points by defensemen.
- 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins: 148 points by defensemen.
- 2008 Detroit Red Wings: 204 points by defensemen.
- 2007 Anaheim Ducks: 209 points by defensemen.
After sitting in the pressbox for four straight games, the Toronto Maple Leafs have sent down Jake Gardiner to the Toronto Marlies of the AHL.
The move comes at a bizarre time; John-Michael Liles remains out with concussion like symptoms, and aside from Gardiner, there is hardly any mobility on the back end.
Don’t get me wrong, if Gardiner isn’t playing, then he should be sent to the AHL where he can log big minutes and continue to develop. Having him sit in the press box won’t do him or the team any good at this point.
At this point, the only way Gardiner gets back into the lineup will be if the Leafs trade a defender, which I highly anticipate to happen.
Last year, the “emergence” of Keith Aulie allowed for the trading of Francois Beauchemin.
This year, it seems as if Gardiner and perhaps Jesse Blacker may be ready for prime time. This should afford the Leafs some depth to make a move.
This is not the last we’ve seen of Jake Gardiner, mark these words.
There were plenty of drama surrounding the Leafs AHL affiliate this past week.
Working on six night’s rest, the Marlies were raring to go Saturday afternoon against the Rochester Americans. Although faltering early in the game, Joe Colborne continued his hot start to the season, scoring 2:28 into overtime to give Toronto a flying 5-4 come-from-behind victory. Colborne’s overtime marker came after Ryan Hamilton and Darryl Boyce scored 34 seconds apart late in the third period to tie the game 4-4. Joey Crabb and Kelsey Wilson had the other goals for Toronto, and goaltender Ben Scrivens stopped 22 shots for the win.
The Marlies were right back at it on Sunday afternoon, although the scoreline wasn’t in Toronto’s favour, falling to the Lake Erie Monsters 5-4 in overtime. It was the second straight night that the Marlies fought back from a two-goal third-period deficit to claw their way into the extra frame. Joey Crabb had two goals to lead the Marlies, while Joe Colborne and Mike Zigomanis also scored. Jussi Rynnas stopped 27 shots, taking the loss.
There are some major positives to draw from the Marlies so far this season:
- Marlies scoring leaders Joey Crabb (6G, 6A) and Joe Colborne (5G, 7A) are second and third, respectively, in the AHL scoring race. They sit one point behind Chris Bourque of the Hershey Bears. Crabb and Colborne are also tied for fourth in league in plus/minus, each with a +6 rating.
- One other Marlie has made it to the Top 20 in AHL scoring: Mike Zigomanis (2G, 7A), sitting 16th.
- Marlies defencemen Matt Lashoff and Marcel Mueller have both started the season strong for their club, each with a goal and four assists to lead all Marlies blueliners.
There are some question marks surrounding the play of few of the Marlies:
- Keith Aulie, who seemed to have a bright future with the Maple Leafs after partnering with Dion Phaneuf for the majority of the second-half of last year’s season, has started this campaign flat. He’s recorded zero points, is a team-worst -5, and only has three shots on goal in six games. He is far from the form Leafs fans grew accustomed with last year.
- Luca Caputi, who at one point was a Leafs top-six forward following the trade which sent Alexei Ponikarovsky to the Pittsburgh Penguins, has only recorded one point with the Marlies this season (1G, 0A).
- In four games played, Ben Scrivens has seen his save percentage slip to .889, well below the .924 he displayed in last year’s campaign.
The Marlies now sit atop their division with a 4-1-1 record, taking points in five of six games played. They pick things up this Wednesday at home against the Abbotsford Heat.
Yes, the season is a long one, but through six games, it looks like the future is bright on The Farm.
I welcome your thoughts.
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.
First of all, I’d like to thank the fine folks at LeafsWire for giving me the opportunity to write for them. I hope you, the readers, will enjoy the perspective I have to offer.
For my first post, I’m going to take a look at three players on the Leafs team I’m looking to have strong rebound seasons. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll take one from each position: forward, defence, and goalie.
Goalie – Jonas Gustavsson
This is a timely pick considering he’s getting his first full 60 minutes tonight in Buffalo. “The Monster” had a disastrous 2010-11 campaign. He won just six of his 21 starts, with a .890 save percentage and a 3.29 goals against average. Those Toskala-esque numbers really can’t get any worse for the young Swede. He’s pegged as the backup to James Reimer right now, but I’m expecting him to open some eyes this year.
At the beginning of last season, he was playing fairly well, just not getting any goal support. But in December things sort of fell off the rails and he never got back on track. He was strong in an AHL conditioning stint, but never got a chance to prove himself on his return to the NHL. I expect him to be highly motivated this season, and I think he will, at times, push Reimer strongly for the #1 job. That’s not to say I expect Reimer to struggle. I just think Gustavsson will be playing so well, that he’s going to make it difficult for Ron Wilson to sit him for extended periods of time. That’s going to be huge, since it will decrease Reimer’s workload and keep him fresh for the full season.
Forward – Matthew Lombardi
I’m well aware of the fact that Lombardi is not likely to be ready for Opening Night, but in all honesty, I’m not expecting him to be that far off. Given the fact that the Leafs will have only played four games by October 17, it’s not crazy to think he can get into the lineup by about the sixth game of the season or so.
Lombardi is known as a speedy two-way centre with good play-making skills. Sounds like something Leafs fans have been starving for, no? He was on my wish list in the 2010 free agency season. I was not a fan of the contract the Predators gave him, but now that the Leafs will only have him on the books for two years of that deal (at $3.5 million per season), it seems much more manageable.
Where he fits into the lineup is a bit of a question mark. Tyler Bozak has looked fantastic on the third line with Nazem Kadri and Colby Armstrong. Mikhail Grabovski is cemented on the top line with Nikolai Kulemin and Clarke MacArthur. Wilson has suggested Lombardi could play wing on the third line, but with Kadri playing as well as he has, it would be foolish to remove him from that role. Tim Connolly hasn’t dazzled on a line with Phil Kessel yet, but he’ll be given plenty of time to build that chemistry. If I was in Ron Wilson’s shoes, I would slot Lombardi in on the fourth line, but use him almost as a roving centre. Give him a shift here and there with each line to give the regular centre a break, and have him on the first or second penalty kill unit. If Lombardi can get into the lineup for almost a full season and influence the special teams, the Leafs’ chances of making the playoffs jump immensely in my mind.
Defence – Mike Komisarek
Here’s another character who might not be in the lineup on Opening Night. He’s looked much better in pre-season, but that still might not be enough to crack the top six. You could make the argument that he has been out-performed by Cody Franson and Carl Gunnarson, the two defenders he is fighting for ice time. If and when Komisarek gets into action, I expect him to have a quietly solid season. I honestly think the opening might come if Keith Aulie struggles (and for the record, I do expect him to struggle). Whether he would jump in with Dion Phaneuf, or on the third pair obviously remains to be seen.
However, I do believe he finally realizes that he has to bring his absolute best every night to find himself on the ice. That’s not something he’s really been faced with over his first two seasons in blue and white. The prospect of such humiliation might serve as a very valuable motivating tool. If that’s the case, I believe he can return to the form he showed in his final season with the Montreal Canadiens.
These are my picks to have solid seasons for the Leafs, despite some expectations to the contrary. Who do you think will come out of nowhere and help get the Leafs to the post-season?