2013 – 2014 Toronto Maple Leafs Add Peter Holland and Marlies Reassign Wade Macleod

Peter Holland was most likely not a household name going into last week in Leafs land but the latest member of the Toronto Maple Leafs grew up a fan, wearing a Sundin jersey and was recently quoted as exclaiming that this was “a dream come true” for him. This was not the move many in the media industry saw coming with Claude Louiselle and Dave Nonis pulling the trigger on a trade for a relatively unproven prospect centerman to fill the void with David Bolland being out for most likely a considerable amount of time as opposed to a veteran or an expiring UFA contract. The Leafs parted way with Marlies defenseman Jesse Blacker whom appeared to be on the outside looking in these days, although his recent scratches with the Marlies may have had less to do with his relatively skill levels and perhaps this move will be the positive change in scenery that his professional career may have required. The Leafs also sent two 2014 draft picks to the Anaheim Ducks, a second round pick (if Holland stays in the NHL, a third round if he is does not) and a seventh round pick.

Holland put an exclamation point on what he brings with his first game with the Leafs putting up a 64% faceoff win percentage while playing between Kessel and Van Reimsdyke. Not bad for a first outing and his second against the Islanders wasn’t too shabby either. The 6’2”, 192lbs centerman was a first overall pick, 15th overall in 2009, the same draft that had Kadri taken 7th overall by the Maple Leafs. He has put up solid numbers in the AHL with 60 points in 71 games his first year and 39 points in 45 games in the second that landed him an extend NHL stint with the Ducks. So who is Holland and what does he actually bring to the Maple Leafs organization?

“Holland has begun to put his game together in the past couple of seasons. Where he was a player who could have been described as having all the tools but no tool box, Holland has evened out his effort and consistency. He is a big player with a soft touch. Although he is more of a shoot-first center, he has the vision and passing skills to be a respectable setup man.” according to Hockeysfuture.ca

The Hockey News has this to say about Holland “Assets: Is a versatile forward with scoring and all-around upside. Owns an ideal frame (6-3, 200 pounds) for the National Hockey League game. Flaws: Needs to make better use of his 6-3 frame, especially in terms of his physical play, in order to make an impact at the highest level. Career Potential: Scoring forward with upside.”

“We look at the long term for him and we think he has the potential to be a long-term player for us. Whether or not he continues to contribute here will depend on his play.” Stated Leafs GM Dave Nonis when asked about the trade. Whether Holland stays with the Maple Leafs past the point of both Kardi and Bozak returning will widely depend on his play. A savvy trade at least from the optical point of view, Holland brings the Leafs a much needed prospect at the center position who is a talented faceoff specialist with size and speed. He showed flashes of creativity and with some further seasoning could potentially crack the top six in a couple years time. This also allows the organization to further develop Greg McKegg who has also showed flashes of his overall potentially but still has a ways to go yet.

Also coming over in the trade was NHL stalwart Brad Staubitz, a 29 year old Bright’s Grove, Ontario native checking in at 6’1” and a solid 215lbs. The right winger has played the better part of six seasons in the NHL and brings another element of grit to the Marlies organization and another bottom six potential call up for the Maple Leafs if required. With Trevor Smith and Jerred Smithson still with the big club it will fall to Staubitz and Troy Bodie as the veterans of the team to help stabilize and focus such a young roster. One interesting point to note is that Staubitz can play both defense and forward and actually entered the league as a defenseman. This type of utility could become a considerable asset for coach Steve Spott during the grinding winter months if injuries do start to mount.

The Hockey News outlines Staubitz as the following “Assets: An experienced and willing pugilist and agitator, he’s also versatile (with experience at both wings and defense). Has excellent team-first qualities. Flaws: A liability in his own zone, he lacks experience and offensive acumen as a forward. Also takes some bad penalties from time to time. Can’t be used a lot.”

Finally, the Toronto Marlies have moved forward Wade Macleod to their ECHL affiliate, the Orlando Solar Bears. MacLeod who has put up 5 points in 13 games after returning from a scary seizure on the ice last year most likely was sent down to get additional playing time after the acquisition of Brad Staubitz and chances are he will be back with the club again soon. The Marlies at the same time called up goalie Christopher Gibson who appears to have stabilized and improved his game posting 2.70 GAA and a 0.901 SV% in 7 games while sending goalie Garret Sparks to Orlando. Sparks has had a rough 4 outings with the Marlies posting a GAA of 4.10 and a SV% of 0.848 and this assignment could be to get his confidence back up and stabilize his game. Given the play of defenseman Zach Yuen with Orlando I am personally curious if he is poised for a call up soon. As always food for thought.

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Maple Leafs Organization Learning the Importance of Depth Early on this Season PART II

The Maple Leafs cannot realistically win every game but the disaster that was their most recent game in Vancouver this past Saturday against the Canucks was further shadowed by the indefinite loss of David Bolland to an errant skate cut to an ankle tendon by new Toronto public enemy Zach Kassian. Although the surgery was thankfully successful, local media speculate that he may not return until March which puts some significant pressure on the organization to shuffle the deck or to look at making a trade to shore up the position.

Although the Leafs will attempt using JVR at center for the interim, local media are already reporting that the club has been making phone calls around the league to inquire about the availability of players. Assumptions are that they will be looking at centers who will be Unrestricted Free Agents in 2014 but one must assume that cap space will have to go in the opposite direction in order to get a deal like this done, potentially John-Michel Liles $3.75 million contract, although at multi-year may be difficult to move. That leaves little in terms of available players but figures that do appear to match JML’s cap hit would be players like Calgary Flames Matt Stajan, Anaheim Ducks Saku Koivu or perhaps Andrew Cogliano. All very possible stopgap moves to shore up the bottom six, although there are a couple other avenues that have not necessarily been mentioned by traditional media as alternate options however.

One possibility could be to sign a current free agent that is playing in the AHL or Europe to a two way one year deal that could be assigned to the Marlies once Bolland returns. David Steckel is familiar to the leafs organization and had a 54.5% faceoff percentage last year splitting time between the Maple Leafs and the Anaheim Ducks. The 31 year old is a bigger body at 6’5” 217lbs and has experience with the team. The same could be said about Matt Lombardi or Tim Brent who as a defensive specialist and hometown kid could be a great stopgap signing if he has on out clause included in his current KHL deal.

Another would be to potentially consider a larger scale trade for an over performing AHL prospect like the New York Rangers J.T. Miller. Perhaps the Calgary Flames would consider trading Roman Horak for a draft pick or for a package with a younger prospect center and a draft pick; the San Jose Sharks have Freddie Hamilton and the Edmonton Oilers Anton Lander. Smaller scale trades could perhaps be considered for former Boston Bruin and current Norfolk Admiral Maxim Sauve or perhaps the Vancouver Canucks would consider trading current Utica Comet Zac Dalpe; perhaps the New York Rangers would part ways with NHL veteran Darroll Powe although his salary may make that move difficult.

Finally, perhaps the Maple Leafs would consider burying a bottom 6 players contract to free up enough cap space to trade for Scott Gomez who is currently playing for the Florida Panthers for a one year, $900,000 or perhaps Brad Boyes who is on a one year $1 million dollar contact although I would personally assume trading for a significant prospect who is further along in their development may be the best option given the contract would give the club flexibility to move the player down as other players come off the LTIR. As always food for thought.

2013 – 2014 – Maple Leafs Organization Learning the Importance of Depth Early on this Season PART I

If they didn’t already know, the Maple Leafs have come to realize quite early on in the season just how important organizational depth on the Marlies can be with no less than seven Marlie pegged players appearing in the lineup so far this season (David Broll, Trevor Smith, Carter Ashton, Troy Bodie, Josh Leivo, Jamie Devane and Spencer Abbott). This further exuded just how important it can be to have an affiliate close at hand giving the team the ability to send players up and down depending on requirements with relative ease.

There have been some surprises on just how regular some of those appearances by those players have been especially with respect to Trevor Smith and Carter Ashton, both of whom appear to have won over trust in Randy Carlyle given their inclusion on this most recent Western road swing. This may change with Nikoli Kuleman’s plausible return for the upcoming game in Vancouver and Carter Ashton may find himself on his way back to the Marlies before too long. That being said he has been an impact player with the Leafs and will definitely add some much need offense on the Marlies squad until called up again which I have no doubt will happen again in the near future given his play.

After watching the last couple of games he has played, one can definitely appreciate what Randy Carlyle was thinking when the organization reached out and signed Troy Bodie as a player that does not require much if any maintenance. Found myself pretty impressed with his speed (he is almost deceptively fast for his size) and his agility which was surprising for someone who I had inadvertently pegged as a one dimensional player destined for the Marlies. He also appears to be fairly defensively aware and always seemed to be blocking the almost sure goal. Really hope that he is inserted into the fourth line given the recent injury to Fraser McLaren in his fight with McGratton in Calgary, alongside Smith and Orr. Bodie is quite adept at grinding down other teams offensive weapons with well-timed checks and a fast paced fore-check that can cause turnovers, just watch the top of the screen on the video below.

Trevor Smith, the captain of the Marlies is currently centering the Maple Leafs fourth line and has a goal and currently sits at a plus minus of -1 in 8 games which doesn’t appears to be all that bad. His faceoff percentage on the road currently sits at 52.9% and as he becomes more accustomed to the NHL game and teams centers with whom he faces, there should be an expectation that this percentage will increase. Unfortunately with Smith having some success with the Maple Leafs, it left a significant hole with the Marlies in terms of leadership, timely face-offs and scoring threat. Enter Jerred Smithson.

If you are not familiar with the name, Smithson, who suffered a hamstring injury over the summer and was unable to attend NHL camps, left him on the outside looking in at the beginning of the season. The Maple Leafs reached out to Smithson to assist with the Marlies after hearing of his availability and he literally joined the team the next day. The 34 year old, 6’3”209lbs center from Vernon, BC posted at 55.4% faceoff win percentage in his last NHL season split between the Florida Panthers and the Edmonton Oilers and will have a significant impact on the Marlies in terms of defensive zone face-offs, grit, his veteran presence and will attempt to fill the leadership void left by Trevor Smith.

Thankfully with respect to the Marlies, although they have lost some of their more experienced players to the Leafs with respect to Smith, Ashton and perhaps to an extent Bodie, their goaltending with Drew MacIntyre has been absolutely stellar and with the amount of depth they have in the defensive end bodes well for the team in order to remain competitive enough throughout the year while allowing their young forwards the time to grow. That paired with the odd call-up for players like Leivo will further drive the Marlies players to bring their A game each and every night.

The Marlies had earlier this year assigned two players to their ECHL affiliate, the Orlando Solar Bears, goaltender Christopher Gibson and young defenseman Zach Yuen, the latter who appears to have fit right into the team, performing well putting up 3 assists in the first 6 games while remaining even while Gibson took a little longer to adjust but looks to be on the right track pulling his save percentage above .900.

Given the latest injuries to Bozak and Bolland recently, expect a new article shortly  As always food for thought.