The Toronto Maple Leafs are continuing to toy with the lineup as the season progresses, filling holes where they need it and plucking some players off the roster and either scratching them or loaning them to their AHL affiliate Toronto Marlies.
Kasperi Kapanen and Frederik Gauthier have been up and down, while Matt Martin has spent some significant time as a scratch as of late. But recently the Leafs also loaned defenceman Andreas Borgman to the Marlies, with the return of Morgan Rielly. While the Leafs wanted to keep Travis Dermott in the lineup, Roman Polak and Connor Carrick remained with the team forcing them to make the decision on Borgman.
But with the 22-year-old Swede being such a force physically for the Leafs’ blue line, the round table (of Petrie, Slawson and myself) decided to discuss whether or not the team made the right decision in sending him down.
Did the Leafs Get It Wrong in Loaning Borgman to the Marlies?
Forbes: I wouldn’t say they got it wrong. Rather, the team was forced to make a decision, forced into deciding which defenceman would have to go with the return of Rielly and the eventual return of Polak.
What made that decision far more complex was the fact that Dermott was playing at an NHL-calibre pace and fitting in well with the big club. In fact, for a team that was struggling defensively, his 52.1 Corsi For Percentage (CF%) was welcomed by a team that desperately needed help in their own end.
That said, Borgman was averaging just 13:41 in ice-time already in his 48 games with the Leafs. In that time, he scored three goals and eight assists and a 50.4 CF% while playing a physical game. In fact, he was 35th on the NHL’s list of hits at the time he was sent down.
However, Carrick (15:09), Dermott (16:38), Polak (17:03), Rielly (21:54), Hainsey (22:14), Zaitsev (22:35) and Gardiner (22:54) all average more ice-time than Borgman. Each one carried some kind of side factor that forced the team’s hand into loaning Borgman to the Marlies – like Hainsey’s veteran leadership and ability to kill penalties. And with Dermott playing as well as he has, the Leafs didn’t have any other choice – at least none that didn’t involve moving defenceman via trade.
That said, Borgman won’t be with the Marlies for long. His physicality is something that the Leafs desperately need on their blue line and, because of that, Borgman will eventually force the team’s hand again. But for the time being, he should take this demotion as an opportunity and continue his development with the Marlies. Chances are he’ll see significant ice-time and has a chance to show off his game to the entire organization.
Petrie: The Leafs were absolutely right in loaning Borgman to the Marlies. With Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner firmly entrenched as the top two left defensemen on the Leafs, that only left one spot for either Travis Dermott or Andreas Borgman and you can put me firmly on Team Dermott.
Dermott has played extremely well of late including four points in his past six games and he deserves a chance to continue starting.
There was still the option of keeping Borgman as the seventh defenceman instead of Roman Polak. Borgman is the better player of the two, but I like the choice to send him to the Marlies where he will play much more and will even see time on special teams. He’s only 22 years old so continuing to develop his skill set is important in the long run.
If Dermott falters or another injury occurs, Borgman will be back up with the Leafs, hopefully even better than before.
Slawson: Not at all. In fact, the Leafs may have made the right decision in doing so.
As the Swedish Hockey League’s Rookie of the Year in 2016-17, Borgman’s impending arrival in Toronto generated a great deal of excitement and expectation, and deservedly so. Touted as a rugged defender of top pairing potential, Borgman’s signing immediately eased the strain and skepticism surrounding the Leafs’ blue line and its clear lack of depth to begin the season.
However, lost in the exhilaration created by Borgman’s signing was the fact that he is just 22 years of age. As a relatively young player, making the jump to the NHL-level without any hiccups is no easy task – a reality which Borgman has faced head-on in his rookie season. Further, Borgman has been forced to adapt and adjust to the North American style of play while competing against stern competition, a tremendously difficult transition to endure while playing under intense scrutiny.
So, a trip to the AHL and playing time outside of the Leafs’ spotlight could prove to be exactly what Borgman needs. With the Marlies, Borgman will be afforded with a great deal of ice time in various situations while adapting to a new style of play in the process. Skating under considerably less pressure, Borgman will undoubtedly develop a new-found confidence in his game which should allow his natural abilities to flourish.
In the end, it will surely be a relatively short period of time before Borgman is called upon by the Leafs. Sure, a demotion is never enjoyable, however, Borgman stands poised to significantly improve his game with the Marlies – an opportunity which could prove to be crucial to his long-term development.
While Borgman’s call up to the Leafs is going to happen eventually, the Leafs need to do what’s best for the organization. That seems to be leaving Dermott in the lineup and rotate between Carrick and Polak for the time being. Regardless, the Leafs might not be in the market for a defenceman anymore as the deadline approaches and they are left with a logjam on the blue line.
With that, be sure to join us next time at the round table for more topics surrounding the Leafs. For now, let us know what you think about the team loaning Borgman to the Marlies by leaving your comments below.
Andrew is in his 8th year reporting for The Hockey Writers covering the Toronto Maple Leafs. He began his broadcasting with CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada team as well as being part of their coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. He’s the former play-by-play voice of the London Jr. Knights for Rogers TV and currently hosts the Sticks in the 6ix podcast. You can follow him on Twitter at @AndrewGForbes.