The Toronto Maple Leafs placed Martin Marincin on waivers today. A few days later than those who figured it was an inevitability expected, which led some of us (guilty as charged) to start trying to figure out why that was the decision they made.

But it’s been done now, and the takes are, as expected, are unanimous:

Okay, maybe not. That shouldn’t be surprising, though; Marincin is a polarizing player. Those who praise him will point to his underlying numbers, like the fact that he’s been a positive team-relative shot-differential player in every year of his career. They’ll praise his gap control, noting that, both to the eyes and to the spreadsheets, he’s incredibly good at stopping counter attacks before they can really start:

They’ll praise the reach that his frame affords him, the fact that he skates a little better than most “big guys”, that he has been able to transfer his results to playing with all sorts of different defencemen and against all types of competition. They’ll praise the fact that no matter how awkward he looks, he tends to skate away with a decent goal differential and with his team taking more shots than they would’ve without him. They’ll be correct.

His detractors, on the other hand, will point out that he’s next to no confidence when he gets into the defensive zone. They’ll point out that he shows next to no bite in the defensive zone. They’ll point out that while he might has good control of what forms these back-and-forth plays, he often completely loses it near the conclusion of them, leading to moments like this:

They’ll be correct. Martin Marincin is an absurdly fascinating player. Parts of him look elite, parts of him look sub-replacement. Parts of him are just competent, but because he’s such a unique player compared to his teammates, they get exaggerated in positive and negative directions. Really, he doesn’t play anything like the rest of his teammates.

That, perhaps, is why I became less invested in his fate as time came. I don’t doubt that the right team would have a spot for him, and I think that if a team is considering claiming him, they should, because if they’re close enough to his style of play to be enticed by him, he might find a lot of success.

But in Toronto’s case? Marincin was a square peg in a round hole. On a team that seems to be trying to throw speed, cycle-play, and physicality into a blender to create an unavoidable tornado for their opponents, he was literally none of those things. Which is fine if you’re clearly the best all-around option available, but when the organization has about 6 or 7 guys about margin-of-error distance apart for their bottom pair rotation, the different one becomes less of a hill to die on.

I’d love him to clear waivers, both to help the Marlies dominate and to ensure that the Leafs have plenty of people to go back to if someone gets hurt or really struggles. But I doubt there will be a huge “what if” if he gets claimed. Even if he thrives elsewhere, there was never going to be that opportunity here, and his departure would get someone else, probably someone younger and with more upside, a little bit closer to reaching their own potential.

What matters more is the follow-up move. For example, if they’re waiving him to have a roster spot available to make a claim on Calvin Pickard, that’s likely a high-praise decision. If they’re waiving him because they don’t feel Calle Rosen will get relegated to the press box and will instead be rotated with Andreas Borgman, that’s fine. If they’re waiving him because they have a trade in the works for a defenceman, then I’d be cautiously excited. If they’re waiving him just to get him that 30-day window of exemption while teams still aren’t sure enough of their rosters to claim him, that would be interesting. If they’re waiving him to sign Roman Polak… okay, maybe that’s a problem.

But we don’t know that second half yet. Until then, the best way to look at this is that they’re giving an imperfect, irregular player a chance to play regularly. Whether that means greener pasture or a confidence-boosting stretch with the Marlies remains to be seen.

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