Everyone who follows the escapades of the Toronto Maple Leafs knew that as training camp came to an end, there would be some very important roster moves coming. The debate, simply put, was whether the Blue and White should keep their young and talented prospects with the big club for the upcoming season, or send them down for another year of seasoning.
There were clear pros and cons for each option. Keeping the players up would give them valuable NHL experience and the chance to make a name for themselves and impress the front office, coaching staff and fans. On the con side, this is more likely than not going to be a rough year for the Leafs. It wouldn’t make sense for them to subject the future of the franchise to a year of losing and harsh criticism.
In the end, that was they thinking that won the day. The Maple Leafs made a multitude of cuts, and many of the players of the future were sent to the AHL to ply their trade for the year. That doesn’t mean that they won’t get the opportunity to be called up for a stint with the big club however. It just means they will start the year with the Marlies.
The Maple Leafs stuck with their rebuilding plan when they made their latest training camp cuts. The biggest name is easily William Nylander, the Leafs prized first rounder from the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. Others who will join him include Connor Brown, who led the Marlies in scoring a year ago.
Young Russian Nikita Soshnikov, college standout Zach Hyman and Kasperi Kapanen, who was acquired as part of the Phil Kessel trade, were also shipped to the AHL’s Marlies. Rich Clune, Viktor Loov, Rinat Valiev and goalies Antoine Bibeau and Garret Sparks were also assigned to the team. It’s worth noting that Stuart Percy, the young defenseman who cracked the opening line-up last year, was also among the cut players.
The Blue and White also waived slick skating T.J. Brennan, Andrew Campbell, scrappy forward Sam Carrick, Matt Frattin and Byron Froese. The purpose of the waive was to assign them to the Marlies in the coming days.
Who Made The Team?
Because of the rebuild, the Maple Leafs are going to roll with a veteran heavy line-up for this upcoming season. Fans will recognize Leaf veterans Joffrey Lupul, Tyler Bozak, James van Riemsdyk, Peter Holland, Leo Komarov and Nazem Kadri among the forwards. New faces include P.A. Parenteau, Shawn Matthias, Brad Boyes and Michael Grabner, all of whom have NHL experience.
On the defensive side of things, there is still one more cut to go. The Maple Leafs currently have eight defensemen on the roster. Dion Phaneuf, Jake Gardiner, Morgan Rielly, Roman Polak and Matt Hunwick are sure bets to make the opening night roster. The final three spots are currently held by veteran Stephane Robidas and young defenders Scott Harrington and Martin Marincin.
The latter two are both a mere 22 years old. They both displayed sound judgement and skill and got better as the preseason went along. It will be interesting to see who the Maple Leafs decide to cut. Will it be the older, slower Robidas? Or will the rebuild mentality win out and force one of Marincin or Harrington down to the Marlies?
Whatever ends up happening, the roster cuts that recently occurred were a smart move by the Leafs and their management team. It shows that they are committed to letting their young players grow and learn together, which can only be a benefit for the future of the franchise.
Some of the skaters sent down to the Marlies will undoubtedly find their way up to the big club this season. That may be as an injury replacement, or their performance in the minors was good enough to earn them a look. Receiving those types of chances will help the players grow and get better.
After years of questionable decisions, it appears the Maple Leafs are finally on the right track. Smart judgement needs to continue to be exercised for this franchise to dig its way out of past mistakes and rise into a winning culture.