It has been no real secret for those following the Marlies this year that the teams relative youth and inexperience has been a little more apparent with the off season departures of veteran goalie Drew McIntyre and AHL defenseman of the year TJ Brennan. They have had trouble finding the back of the net and with the loss of captain Trevor Smith and stalwart defenseman Korbinian Holzer to callup’s, rookies have been pressed into service with mixed results. Although it is important to allow prospects time to develop and see as much game time action as they are able; as a fan of the team, watching them lose a truck load of games in November and December was somewhat difficult.
Unfortunately this also appears to be further supported by some of the grass roots advanced statistics that are surfacing around the net these days where the lack of scoring has been attributed to the lack of scoring chances. Many thanks to Kevin McAllister (@joshweissbock) for the image below expressing Estimated Fenwick Close for the AHL:
For those who are not quite familiar with all the new fancy stats seemingly coming out of nowhere this year from the hockey universe, Fenwick is essentially shot attempt differential excluding any blocked shots and the above clearly indicates that yes indeed the Marlies have had trouble scoring because they are not generating enough shot attempts versus the rest of the league. For a more in-depth explanation of Fenwick, Pension Plan Puppets has great article on it found below:
So the Marlies are being out shot and out scored which usually leads to losing, which really should not come as any great surprise. Thankfully however management seemed to be well aware of the problem and initially made moves back in early November to add a scoring or at minimum point generating forward. Mickey Lang, the reigning ECHL scoring leader from the Marlies affiliate Orlando Solar Bears was originally called up when the issue was becoming more apparent but the club suspended Lang before he could suit up in any games citing “personal reasons” which we can be sure was more along the lines of “conduct unbecoming a Toronto Marlie” which was unfortunate for the organization, the team and the player. Hopefully Lang is working hard to make amends. This however opened up opportunity for another player from the ECHL, enter Byron Froese.
Froese is a 23 year old centre from Winkler, Manitoba who was originally drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 4th round of the 2009 NHL entry draft. A solid 6’1″ and 190lbs, Froese was riding a ten game point streak when the Marlies contacted the Cincinnati Cyclones of the ECHL to consumate a loan agreement essentially allowing the Marlies to call up Froese for an undetermined period of time. What made this negotiation more specifically interesting was the fact that although the Cyclones are the ECHL affiliates of the Florida Panthers and Nashville Predators, Froese was only signed to an ECHL contract and was essentially available to any AHL team regardless of affiliation. The Cyclones director of new media and broadcasting, Nick Brunker had this to say about the seemingly unusual agreement:
“When any player is under an ECHL contract, such as Froese, he is eligible to be called up to any AHL team – not just an affiliate,” he said. “With Toronto in need of a forward, they were looking for a guy who can produce. Froese is among as hot as any player right now in the ECHL and certainly earned a promotion.” (via WCPO Cincinnati)
So far the move has proven incredibly worthwhile to the club with Froese contributing 6 points (4 of which were goals) in his first 7 games and the Marlies gaining some important ground after a pretty disastrous slide that has jeopardized their playoff chances. Although known to more of a defensive forward with an innate ability to chip in, if Froese can continue with the point production and sound defensive play he may find his way onto the Marlies or another AHL club in the very near future. A tandem of Froese and Rupert as bottom six centers in the near future if Carrick makes the jump, at least at this point doesn’t seem like such a bad thing. As always, puck for thought.