Toronto Marlies: Struggling to Find Offence
Mar 6, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment mascots Toronto Marlies Duke (left) and Toronto Maple Leafs Carlton (center) and Toronto Raptors Stripes (right) pose during the Players Gala at Real Sports Bar & Grill. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
The Toronto Marlies have been a solid team in the AHL in recent years, but this season has not been so kind to them. The team is struggling to produce offensively, which has led to a five-game losing streak. The Marlies currently sit last in the North division with a 5-9-1 record (2-7-1 in their last game), scoring 25 goals in 15 games, while allowing 42. They currently rank dead last in goals in the AHL, which has left fans wondering what happened to the old Marlies that were one of the top teams?
The problem for the Marlies has been the players missing from last season, who played key roles offensively for the team. Gone is T.J. Brennan, who is now with the Chicago Blackhawks orginization. Brennan led the Marlies with 25 goals and 47 assists- 72 points in 76 games last season – he is a defenceman, so it’s close to impossible to replace that type of production. Jerry D’Amigo was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets, but he has struggles this year for their AHL club – the Springfield Falcons.
Nov 18, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward Trevor Smith (23) skates during the pre game warm up against the Nashville Predators at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Then there are the players that were called up to play with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Captain Trevor Smith is a vital part of the Marlies team, but at the moment the Leafs need him to fill in with the many injuries to the forwards group. Joshua Leivo will most likely return soon to the Marlies when Joffrey Lupul or David Booth are ready to return to the lineup, but he is their top line winger. Carter Ashton currently sits at home after a failed drug test has left his future in doubt. He was a point per game player with the Marlies and got an opportunity to make the Leafs, but it has not gone that well for him. Brandon Kozun had a short stint with the Marlies last season, but he did contribute offensively during that short time. The one player missing from the Marlies this season which has to be the most significant is Peter Holland. He was their best centre man and an important player in their Calder Cup playoff run.
Sep 24, 2014; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Ottawa Senators goalie Craig Anderson (41) makes a save on a shot from Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Matt Frattin (39) in the first period at the Canadian Tire Centre. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports
The Marlies will get some help with Matt Frattin being sent down after being placed on waivers. David Booth might be placed on a conditioning stint as he has not played in a game since the September 29. The same could happen to Brandon Kozun, who has been recovering from a high ankle sprain. It is unclear though if Smith will be staying with the Leafs or if they plan to send him to back the Marlies, because he will likely have to clear waivers first.
Sep 23, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Antoine Bibeau (30) goes to make a save against the Philadelphia Flyers during the third period at the Air Canada Centre. Toronto defeated Philadelphia 4-0. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Another change for the Marlies has come in goal, with Drew MacIntyre gone to the Carolina Hurricanes AHL team. This has left Garret Sparks, Christopher Gibson and Antoine Bibeau to take over the goaltending duties. Unfortunately, neither goalie has played a significant amount of time as a starter in the AHL. The whole team is very inexperienced, which means they will go through some growing pains. Players like Connor Brown and Matt Finn are making the jump from the OHL – Bibeau just graduated from the OMJHL.
Sep 23, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs assistant coach Steve Spott on the bench against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Air Canada Centre. Toronto defeated Philadelphia 4-0. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
The team is on their third head coach with Gord Dineen taking over for Steve Spott, who is now an assistant with the Leafs, Spott took over for Dallas Eakins who left to become the head coach of the Edmonton Oilers. It will take time for the Marlies to get their game going again, but unlike the Leafs there is no pressure for them to win right away. They just need to develop future additions for the Leafs. However, if they can get some wins and push together as a unit, they should be able to to pull out of this slump.