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.

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