Saturday, December 31, 2011

Potential defensive call-ups

As we are all well aware, the Maple Leafs aren't exactly defensive juggernauts. Defensively the Leafs are 17th in GA at 5 v. 5, this is probably where most expected this team to be, in the middle of the pack. However, as we start looking at the Maple Leafs defense while shorthanded, the sad joy we have, at being in the middle of the pack, crumbles away. The Leafs are ranked 20th in times shorthanded, this wouldn't be the end of the world (read: playoffs) if they weren't ranked 30th in power-play goals allowed. So as you may be able to tell, the Leafs are in desperate need of a hockey player that can kill a penalty, or just play defense. Let`s take a look at what Marlies players could help out the roster.

Unfortunately the AHL doesn't keep track of many stats that could help out this investigation so we'll start with +/-. The current leaders in +/- on the Marlies right now are: Marcel Mueller (+6), Jeff Finger (+6), Matt Lashoff (+6) and Drew Paris (+5). The biggest thing that jumps off the page for me here is, why the hell did Keith Aulie get called up? Aulie had 0 Points in 15 games, with a -10. There were many affordable, waiver exempt players available, who are having better years then Aulie, who got passed up, including: Simon Gysbers (25GP 3G 12P -4) and Jesse Blacker (29GP 10A +2). Talk about getting an opportunity for being labeled a 'top prospect'.

It looks like nobody in the top 5 of +/- on the Marlies would be able to help out the Leafs defense/penalty kill. Lashoff and Finger could be a good fit right now, but Lashoff would be claimed on re-entry waivers and the Leafs wont gamble having another team claim Finger for half price (half of Finger's cap hit would count against the Leafs NHL cap). The other option is Korbinian Holzer, who is up with the big club right now, but sitting in the press box. Holzer has had a decent season so far (28GP 1G 7P -4) but unfortunately, unless I watched a lot of Marlies games (if they were on TV i would), no one can tell if Holzer has contributed to the Marlies 1st ranked penalty kill, one would guess that he has, and one would hope that very soon he is subbed in for Aulie.

While this post was meant to try and find a Marlie that could contribute positively to the Leafs defense, all it did really was show me that other then maybe Holzer subbing in for Aulie, this defense isn't going to get any better for the foreseeable future. This isn't exactly a heart warming thought, since defense is why the Maple Leafs have been losing games since their hot start.

As of right now the team has too many offensive minded D, while our defensive minded D, just don't really know how to play defense. Here's to Brian Burke fixing this at the trade deadline, and to another wicked back half of the season.

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