Calle Rosen: The Maple Leafs’ Defensive Reinforcement

The Toronto Maple Leafs have a serious weakness on defence. This has been no secret as the team has struggled defensively since they re-emerged as a playoff contender in 2016-17. Now, as the Stanley Cup playoffs draw ever closer, they are set to receive a defensive reinforcement. After a strong season with the Toronto Marlies, Calle Rosen is scheduled to join the Maple Leafs for their next game against the New York Islanders.

How Can Rosen Help?

Following the injuries to Jake Gardiner and Travis Dermott at the end of February, Toronto’s defence has been in dire straits. Due to their lack of defensive depth, the Leafs have been forced to call upon Martin Marincin, Justin Holl, and Igor Ozhiganov to play regular minutes for the last month. Not exactly an ideal situation for a team that was looking to solidify their position before the playoffs.

Calle Rosen, Toronto Maple Leafs, SHL, NHL
Calle Rosen has been the odd man out more often than not so far this season. (Photo by Vaxjo Lakers/Champions Hockey League via Getty Images)

Now that Dermott has returned from his injury and Rosen is ready to join the team, Toronto’s defence will have received a much-needed shot in the arm. As described by NHL writer Mike Zeisberger on The Jeff Blair Show, Rosen will bring an element of steadiness to this shaky defence. The Maple Leafs are known for making mistakes in their own end. These mistakes often lead to turnovers, which often lead to goals for the other team. Rosen’s style of play should cut back on these costly turnovers.

Rosen is a great puck-handler, which already makes him a drastic upgrade over Marincin. His ability with the puck will allow him to make an impact in transition, something the team sorely needs from its backend. In addition to his puck-handling, Rosen is also a top-notch skater. His skating should help improve a defensive core that has often been found flat-footed against their opponents. While it goes without saying that no one player will fix all of the Leafs’ problems, Rosen will no doubt be an improvement.

One Week Remains, Then Playoffs

The addition of Rosen comes at a much needed time. Had he not been out of action with a foot injury, he would have joined the team as soon as Gardiner and Dermott went down. Now, a month later, the Maple Leafs are running out of time to fix their problems. As only four games remain in the regular season, the team has limited chances to integrate Rosen into the mix and work out the kinks.

Toronto Maple Leafs Nikita Zaitsev Calle Rosen
Toronto Maple Leafs defencemen Nikita Zaitsev and Calle Rosen (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn)

SportsNet’s Luke Fox detailed the likely usage of Rosen and Gardiner during the team’s final week. Rosen will make his season debut against the Islanders on Monday and will likely play the next night against the Carolina Hurricanes as well. The Leafs are hopeful that they will have Gardiner back for Thursday’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning as well. This would then leave only the season finale against the Montreal Canadiens to get the whole team clicking before the playoffs begin.

Toronto must figure out the best way to utilize Rosen, Dermott, and Gardiner and they must do it fast. The team will improve with these additions, but with only a week remaining in the regular season, there are few chances to shake off any possible rust. The Boston Bruins are still the Maple Leafs’ likely first-round playoff matchup and they will not allow the Toronto to get away with having a banged-up team. If the Leafs want to make it past the first round, they need to hope that they can get rolling in a hurry.

Rosen’s Season Has Been One of Improvement

Rosen narrowly missed making the Leafs roster out of training camp. Mike Babcock explained that he thought Rosen had a good chance to make the team out of camp, as reported by SportsNet’s Luke Fox. However, despite spending the season with the Marlies in the AHL, his season has been full of growth and improvement.

He began last season with the Maple Leafs where he totalled one assist in four games before being sent down to the Marlies. Rosen experienced success with the team, putting together 22 points in 62 games. This season, however, was his breakout campaign. Rosen was able to combine his skating and puck-handling abilities with a newfound spark as a set-up man. This has resulted in him totalling 46 points in 54 games.

As a player who went undrafted, Rosen has shown great development over his last two seasons with the Marlies. His skills have quickly made him one of Toronto’s top defensive prospects and he could end up playing a large part in the Maple Leafs’ success in the very near future.