Now might be the time to check out the Toronto Marlies if you’re a Toronto Maple Leafs fan.
Only a month into the season and the Leafs have been frustrating to watch. They’ve shown flashes of talent and dominance mostly thanks to Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Mitch Marner. But the rest of the time the Leafs have shown that they can’t hold a four-goal lead, while their goalie is left helpless by the defense. The Leafs currently sit fourth to last in the NHL.
The Marlies are the polar opposite. Currently, the Marlies sit at the top of the AHL with 13 points and have won six of their eight games. Not only have the Marlies had a great start to the season, but they also have more to cheer about with players like Brendan Leipsic and goalie Antoine Bibeau stepping into the spotlight.
Marlies Winning Without Stars
The Marlies have had a surprising start to the season considering how much of the team they lost from last season. Last season, the Marlies finished with a league-leading 114 points in 76 games and made it to the Calder Cup semi-finals where they lost to the Hersey Bears in five games.
Since then, the Marlies have lost most of that team with key players Nylander, Zach Hyman, Connor Brown and Josh Leivo playing for the Leafs this season. The Marlies’ top two leading scorers are also no longer with the team. T.J. Brennan, who finished with 68 points in 69 games, is currently playing for the Philadelphia Flyers’ AHL team, and Mark Arcobello, who finished with 59 points in 49 games, is playing for Bern SC in the Swiss-A league.
The Marlies looked like they’d be a long shot to have a similar finish as last year, but with all the players that have stepped up, it might be possible.
AHL Players of the Month
The Marlies have had a great start to the 2016-17 AHL season. They lead the AHL and have two of the three AHL players of the month with Leipsic and Bibeau.
Antoine Bibeau, also of the Marlies, named AHL goalie of the month (.944 save percentage). Toronto leads the league at 6-1-1.
— James Mirtle (@mirtle) October 31, 2016
Leipsic and Bibeau have dramatically stepped up their level of play, which has helped compensate for the loss of offense from last season. Leipsic started the season with a four-point game against the Utica Comets and then had a six-game point streak. With 13 points in eight games, it looks like Leipsic is set to both lead the Marlies in points and surpass his 54 points in 65 games he had last season.
Bibeau is also off to a great start with five wins in his six starts (the other being an overtime loss). Although Bibeau had a great record of 28-9-1 last season, his stats were less impressive with a 2.70 goals-against average and a .909 save percentage. Now to be fair, the AHL is just naturally a higher-scoring league compared to the NHL and goalies stats will reflect that difference.
In six starts this season, Bibeau has a 1.64 goals against average and a .944 save percentage. With stats like that, it could mean the NHL is a possibility for Bibeau at some point. This would be dependent on if he can continue that level of play over the course of the whole season.
The Marlies look to be a top team again this season with the help from players like Leipsic and Bibeau that have stepped up their game. The Leafs will undoubtedly continue to frustrate fans throughout the season, but the Marlies will provide some much-needed relief with their consistent and dominant play. The Marlies will once again be a great showcase for the future of the Leafs.
Toronto Maple Leafs contributor for The Hockey Writers.
I’ve been a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs since I was a kid and have always had an interest in writing. At The Hockey Writers, I get to enjoy both of my passions as well as writing about small convoluted details in player contracts and stats.