Category: Around the AHL

Jeff Veillette
Jeff Veillette@jeff

December 5, 2018

The Toronto Marlies have their own logjam to sort out 

Earlier this week, the Toronto Maple Leafs traded Josh Leivo to the Vancouver Canucks for Michael Carcone. Part of this was in fairness to the player, part of this likely war-room politicking, but the most direct reasoning for it was because the return of William Nylander put the Leafs above the 23-man roster size limit.

In the American Hockey League, that limit does not exist. As such, the trade – and the subsequent butterfly effect of Leivo pushing Sam Gagner back down to his unique AHL loan, means that the Toronto Marlies now have 28 players on their roster – or nearly half a team scratched every night.

This is pretty normal in the final stretch of the season, as struggling NHL teams send back their kids for the Calder Cup playoffs and prospects make their way from completed junior seasons via Amateur Tryouts. But in December? Seventeen forwards, eight defencemen, and three goalies isn’t a normal group to carry. It’s even less normal when there aren’t very many clear “shouldn’t be here” guys that can be chopped down.

Forwards

Adam Brooks Emerson Clark Morgan Klimchuk
Adam Cracknell Griffen Molino Pierre Engvall
Carl Grundstrom Jeremy Bracco Richard Clune
Chris Mueller Josh Jooris Sam Gagner
Colin Greening Mason Marchment Trevor Moore
Dmytro Timashov Michael Carcone

Defencemen

Andreas Borgman Jordan Subban Timothy Liljegren
Calle Rosen Rasmus Sandin Vincent LoVerde
Frank Corrado Sam Jardine

Goalies

Eamon McAdam Kasimir Kaskisuo Jeff Glass

Some temporary relief comes to this group in less-than-ideal circumstances in the form of injury; Adam Cracknell has been out for the past few games (though is expected to return very shortly), and Timothy Liljegren was hurt on Saturday (with no firm timeline on his return as of yet). That still leaves you with six or seven healthy scratches, though, so where do you go from there?

The first place to look is likely at your AHL deals; players that you aren’t necessarily keeping around for NHL aspirations. In Toronto’s case, this covers six players – Emerson Clark, Frank Corrado, Griffen Molino, Jeff Glass, Rich Clune, and Sam Jardine. Clune is the easiest one to sort out here; as a de-facto player/coach who didn’t draw in until mid-November to begin with, his lineup spot appears to be his cherry on top rather than a priority. You also expect that Frank Corrado has earned his roster spot, given Sheldon Keefe’s usage of him on a nightly basis over the past few weeks, including on the penalty kill and in protective minutes.

After that, though, it gets muddy. Jardine, Molino, Clark, and Glass aren’t going to make the every-day roster, so you can just send them to the Growlers, right? Not every player wants that though, given how the ECHL is seen as a bit of a reputational death sentence still – something the Leafs organization wants to change via Newfoundland, but a present issue nonetheless. Molino has never played there, Glass hasn’t played there since 2006, and Clark is at the age where he probably doesn’t want that part-season tag attached to him. Jardine would probably take the demotion the easiest – he’s been a regular down there throughout this career to date and has been healthy scratched in 18 of Toronto’s 21 games.

There is also the issue of Glass working to rehab his game back to decency, after coming out of the gate with a career-worst 0.849 save percentage in 10 games. Should he do that and get back up to speed, that makes things a bit easier, as Eamon McAdam would head down to his initially expected spot with the Growlers.

Perhaps a route to look at with Clark and/or Molino is an AHL trade. The Marlies don’t really need an aggressor like Clark with players like Clune and Mason Marchment around (Toronto is dead last in the league in fighting majors – their only scrap comes from Clark), while Molino’s role as a smooth-skating two-way forward that can kill penalties was upgraded upon with the Andrew Nielsen for Morgan Klimchuk deal. A deal that works may be hard to come by though; none of the league’s well-performing goaltenders are on AHL-only deals, and that’s the only area of immediate need. These could just be loans or future considerations deals that you make as a solid to the players and to alleviate some crunch.

Another option would be to make an NHL deal, perhaps cashing out players that you don’t think will eclipse their current value. One guy I wonder about here is Jeremy Bracco; his point production looks solid (15 in 21 games), but rank behind seven regular skaters in per-60 rates, his 53.8% Corsi-For is solid on the surface but 3% below what the team posts with him off the ice, most of his frequent linemates have had better luck driving play away from him than with him, and does all this with the highest ratio of offensive zone starts on the team. Beyond all that, I just wonder if there are too many similarly young wingers ahead of him in the depth chart, especially given how fast the Leafs have become and his lack of a top gear. A team that sees his counting numbers, his age, and his prior pedigree might be willing to see him as a decent chip still. Dmytro Timashov could also fall into this bracket at some point.

Jordan Subban might be another one to keep an eye on here – I think he’s been excellent for the Marlies in sheltered situations and gives life to their inconsistent powerplay with his love for shooting the puck, but the coaching staff don’t appear to have much trust in him, which unfortunately for the undersized 23-year-old has been par for the course. His saving grace comes with the World Juniors; Timothy Liljegren and Rasmus Sandin will soon be heading to BC for a few weeks of international hockey, which should give him time to show what he’s capable of.

The last pathway comes with resting veterans, which I’m not quite sure the team is comfortable with doing right now. Colin Greening and Vincent LoVerde are the team’s de-facto co-captains and play heavy penalty kill and lead protection minutes, with LoVerde also being tasked with helping groom Sandin’s game. Truth be told, though, neither has had a great year; almost every line with Greening on it has been shelled (he’s a worst-among-regulars 45.6% CF, -13% Rel, with just 7 points to match), and LoVerde has been a similar drag on possession, remaining in the green (52.6%) but conceding shots at a higher rate than any other defenceman, while not contributing much offensively. I really wonder if the lineup could be made more talented by having them on the list of players that get rotated in and out, but don’t expect to be able to find out.

The good news, though, is that these are all good problems. For an American League team to have 28 players that they mostly feel comfortable with playing, including players who would be on some teams’ NHL bubbles on their fourth line and third pair, is certainly an impressive feat. It’s a testament to why the team has been able to score so many goals and control the flow of games, really only being held back by their 30th-ranked 0.867 save percentage. Once that sorts out and they figure out who their most regular group of 20 is, they’ll be in solid shape.

December 5, 2018 33 views 0

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Jeff Veillette
Jeff Veillette@jeff

November 15, 2018

Why a Gudbranson for Nylander deal makes sense for both sides 

Look, I didn’t want it to come to this either. It’s been a wacky and wild few months, with all sorts of uncertainties surrounding the team and all sorts of speculation, and I’ve been pretty adamant that that desperation is no way to solve a tense situation.

But I’m at my wit’s end. Something has to give, and a move needs to be made. I’m sure that Kyle Dubas, Laurence Gilman, and the rest of the management team in Toronto have come to the same conclusion. It’s time to pull the trigger on a Nylander deal. Continue Reading…

November 15, 2018 49 views 0
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    November 15, 2018 Log in to Reply

    this is some of your best work.

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Jeff Veillette
Jeff Veillette@jeff

November 12, 2018

Timothy Liljegren is still a prospect worth being excited for 

The reports of Timothy Liljegren’s death as a top-end prospect are greatly exaggerated.

Much has been made of the 2017 first-round draft pick’s long-term aspirations in the last few weeks, for a variety of different reasons. Many are hoping for a year of domination out of the Swedish defencemen, and the fact that fellow teenaged countryman Rasmus Sandin had a strong training camp and first few AHL games creates some competition for him as well. Despite the fact that the two play on different sides of the point, everyone loves comparative drama, and this appears to be the newest one of those situations in the public eye.

It hasn’t helped that the youngster has a risk-reward element to his game and that players of that archetype tend to get their share of heat in this market – especially when it comes to defencemen. Sure enough, Liljegren has had his moments of iffy reads and bobbled pucks, and many have taken that to be a sign of overall struggle and a potential warning sign for his future.

Here are a few reasons why I wouldn’t worry too much about the aforementioned noise: Continue Reading…

November 12, 2018 49 views 0
Jeff Veillette
Jeff Veillette@jeff

November 2, 2018

Where the Marlies stand heading into the Winter Fair 

Tonight, the Toronto Marlies will play their tenth game of the 2018/19 regular season, as they take on the Cleveland Monsters at Quicken Loans Arena. Not only does that put them into double-digit territory, but it also kicks off one of their two traditional multi-week road trips of the season.

Why exactly do the Marlies evacuate their rink at the end of October, only to re-appear in the final days of the following month? As it turns out, Coca-Cola Coliseum is still City of Toronto property and part of the CNE. This means that when the Royal Winter Fair comes around, they get to use the rink for the multi-week event – usually replacing the ice with dirt and the Marlies with horses. As such, the Marlies use the time to knock a bunch of games off their road schedule.

This year, the break is easier than its ever been; tomorrow’s game in Cleveland, three games in Belleville, and one in Laval before returning home on the 17th. The chain of bus rides has been cut down severely, the total games have dropped from 8-9 to just five, and the team will most likely be able to spend most of their next 17 days in their own homes.

All the same, it’s still traditionally a bookmarking point in the season, so it’s worth looking at where they stand up to this point.

Heading into tonight, Toronto carries a 4-4-0-1 record, good for fourth in the North Division by points and a tie for third in points percentage. The great thing about this trip is that it’ll allow them to pick up some ground; three games against Belleville give them the chance to leapfrog them, and a four-point gap between themselves and Cleveland can be shrunk before the weekend hits.

Toronto achieved its record in a way it likely could have preferred to avoid; after a 7-3 season opener against Utica on October 5th, the team dropped the next five games against Binghamton, Cleveland, Rochester, and two more against the Comets. Since then, though, the team has caught a grip, winning their last three games by a combined score of 9-4.

Part of that comes from a steadying of goaltending, which as you can see above, has been a concern. Their full-season save percentage of 0.882 was even worse two and a half weeks ago and is still way below what they’d like it to be (by comparison, last year’s team got a historical 0.929 effort out of Garret Sparks and Calvin Pickard). Jeff Glass has started to settle in, and the team has in front of him as well. Limiting volume against is likely a goal, but I doubt they’ll want to change much on the other side of the ice; the team is near the top of the league in goal and shot generation, even as the Leafs have taken away quite a few of the team’s top ice-tilters both up front (Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson, Frederik Gauthier), and on the Blue Line (Travis Dermott, Martin Marincin and Justin Holl).

Speaking of tilting the ice, Toronto has done that in a way that you’d expect a progressively-run, modern AHL team to do. Through the nine games, the Marlies have posted a 54.8% Corsi-For Percentage, attempting 401 shots in 5-on-5 situations while conceding 331. Unfortunately, I don’t have a reference point for where that stands with the rest of the league, as I’m tracking that data myself, but from a general standpoint, 55% is a very good mark for a team to be standing at. Notably, it’s not just a matter of score effects; the team took 60.2% of the shot attempts over their three-game winning streak over Hartford, Laval, and Syracuse.

Toronto’s efforts stretch beyond just the total package, though. There are a bevvy of players, all simultaneously working towards many goals. Not only are they trying to win hockey games, but they’re also trying to improve themselves and win the eyes of the league above, as they chase dreams of making to, or returning to, the National Hockey League. Some pathways are different than others, involve more stops on the journey, or more elements to to be taught. Here is an update on where everyone stands in the early goings of this season: Continue Reading…

November 2, 2018 50 views 0
Jeff Veillette
Jeff Veillette@jeff

October 21, 2018

Marlies Split Weekend, Snap Losing Skid 

Losing streaks don’t come often for the Toronto Marlies, but when they do, they’re usually an early-season precursor to the team figuring themselves out and getting back to their usual business. We’ll find out soon enough whether this is similar to those initial stumbles in 2014/15 and 2016/17, but for now, Toronto will settle for ending a five-game losing skid on Saturday afternoon, hours after not being able to cap off a rally in Rochester.

The Highlights

Here’s Friday:

Here’s Saturday:

The Lines

Here’s Friday:

Carl Grundstrom – Chris Mueller – Sam Gagner
Dmytro Timashov – Adam Cracknell – Jeremy Bracco
Pierre Engvall – Josh Jooris – Trevor Moore
Mason Marchment – Colin Greening – Griffen Molino

Calle Rosen – Timothy Liljegren
Andreas Borgman – Vincent LoVerde
Andrew Nielsen – Jordan Subban

Jeff Glass
Eamon McAdam

Here’s Saturday:

Carl Grundstrom – Chris Mueller – Sam Gagner
Dmytro Timashov – Adam Cracknell – Jeremy Bracco
Mason Marchment – Josh Jooris – Trevor Moore
Griffen Molino – Colin Greening – JJ Piccinch

Calle Rosen – Timothy Liljegren
Andreas Borgman – Vincent LoVerde
Sam Jardine – Jordan Subban

Jeff Glass

Powerplay 1: Gagner – Mueller – Grundstrom – Timashov – Liljegren
Powerplay 2: Marchment – Cracknell – Moore – Bracco – Subban
Penalty Kill Forwards: Greening, Jooris, Moore, Cracknell, Molino, Timashov
Penalty Kill Defencemen: Rosen, Liljegren, Borgman, LoVerde

The Notes

  • Chris Mueller returned from an injury suffered the previous week, and his presence was evident from the get-go. Besides the pair of assists he picked up on the weekend, the coaching staff tends to not be shy about using certain centremen in specific situations, and what comes with getting your top threat at the dot back is more situations where you can send out your top line, either to grab a goal or tire out/distract the best players on the opposing team. That much became evident as Saturday’s game progressed, in particular.
  • Also returning to the lineup is a player that the team has been missing the entire season to date in Mason Marchment. If you told me two years ago that I’d be telling you that this team missed his presence, I’d probably laugh, but the strides he’s made to become a valuable, versatile displacement player are nothing short of spectacular. Sure enough, Marchment left the weekend with an assist and a 78% share of the shot attempts while he was on the ice.
  • Marchment played his first game on the fourth line with Colin Greening and Griffen Molino, but was moved up with Josh Jooris and Trevor Moore, the latter of whom was his linemate along with the injured Adam Brooks throughout the Calder Cup playoffs. Said Sheldon Keefe of the reuniting: “We didn’t use Marchment with Moore yesterday and it was because we were kind of taking it slow with Marchment with no exhibition or anything like that. He was outstanding yesterday in the game, so we thought that shuffling things a little bit today, getting him more involved and then reuniting him with Moore, could help kind of kick-start us. That was the case, but both of those players, I think no matter where we put them in the lineup right now they’re just confident and their experience through last season has really put them in a good place coming into this season.”
  • A player who was going to get the opposite treatment on Saturday was Jeremy Bracco, who seemingly ended up a magnet to shots against versus the Amerks. The original plan was for him to slide down to the fourth line, but Pierre Engvall took warmups and didn’t feel comfortable with playing due to some wear and tear from the night before. Bracco stayed on the second line with Dmytro Timashov and Adam Cracknell as a result.
  • Sam Jardine took Andrew Nielsen’s place in the lineup on Saturday, drawing into the lineup for the first time this year while Andrew drew out for his first time. Jardine was very sparingly used – not at all on specials, and rarely at evens unless the team needed someone to catch their breath. That wasn’t completely shocking given his role, and he was good enough to get the job given to him done.
  • Jeff Glass stopped 56 of 62 shots this weekend, which I suppose is fine for a goaltender who is in the position he is now due to some severely extenuating circumstances. If nothing else, it’s an improvement from his first three starts; the Marlies will hope that progression continues for the 33-year-old, who they’ll need steady starts from while Kasimir Kaskisuo recovers from his injury.
  • Toronto’s next game is on Tuesday night against Laval, at Coca-Cola Coliseum. Puck drop is at 7 PM.

Underlying Numbers

Manually tracked data will only appear if you have a Faceoff Circle Subscription.

Continue Reading…

October 21, 2018 39 views 0
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