Although not intended to be the title of a hockey mystery novel you have to admit that the timely signing of Drew MacIntyre to an AHL contract recently with the Toronto Marlies in order to bolster the goal crease could very well be seen as a nod to coach Dallas Eakins by management. Eakins has done a phenominal job keeping the Marlies competitive even with a significant number of their point generators either lost to the parent club or to other NHL teams seeking depth. Eakins has managed to hold players accountable for their performances while appropriately dishing out ice time; even with the squad seemingly younger and less experienced with the aforementioned moves, the team itself has remained highly competitive with obvious strong compete levels expressed, they are literally outworking a large portion of their opponents. Don’t believe me just check out their games and watch D’Amigo, Gardiner, Scott and the recently assembled rookie line of McKegg, Carrick and Devane.
All that being said no one has had a more significant impact on keeping the Marlies a competitive club this late in the season than Drew MacIntyre, a player current Maple Leafs goalie coach Rick St. Choix has some experience working with in their earlier days with the Vancouver Canucks organization (working with the Manitoba Moose in Winnipeg). With Rynnas struggling to regain his form after a recent emergency callup to the NHL and Owuya still studying the North American game (he’s young and I am glad the Marlies are not throwing him into the fire but they really should consider moving him to the ECHL again so he can get some much playing time).
So just who is this MacIntyre guy anyways other than what we have read about him, an ex KHL goalie that has more AHL sweaters than most beer league hockey players? Well the 29 year old Charlottetown, PEI native was originally drafted by the Detroit Red Wings in the 4th round 121 overall in the 2001 NHL Draft where after 3 seasons with the club was traded to the Vancouver Canucks for a conditional 7th round pick. The former QMJHL All-Star has posted some pretty solid numbers during his AHL adventures and his current 1.46 GAA and 0.943 Sv% speaks to his skill and to the defensive system adopted by Eakins that is currently employed by the Maple Leafs.
So what effect does this acquisition have exactly on the remaining goalies the Marlies have, Mark Owuya and Jussi Rynnas?. Well if anything it gives them both an experienced mentor of the same position who has been a professional hockey player fora fair time now, who obviously leads by example and takes the strain off two younger guys to produce night in and night out. Rynnas is and should still be considered a high caliber prospect, make no mistake about it but he does have consistency trouble at time and this signing really allows him to continue in his focus of growing into the role without the added pressure to win on a nightly basis. He can now work on all levels of his game and make mistakes while doing it and not having to worry about the W column stats so much. Same really goes for Owuya who has shown shades of brilliance in limited action but I still really hope Leafs management sends him to an ECHL team very soon for some much needed string of games.
So a little time has passed since I began this article and since MacIntyre has continued to impress in his starts, continuing to give the Marlies a fighting chance each night even if the squad isn’t filled with highly recognizeable names to those outside of the organization and he picked up some matching pads to boot!, looks good on him!. Looking forward to watching the team make another deep run into the playoffs as they obviously have solid goaltending in place to do it all over again.