I doubt Leaf fans who follow the Marlies closely are worried about the club's recent mini-slide. They’ve been on the road a ton and in an awful lot of close games that could have gone either way. They also just came off a stretch where they played quite well and won a number of games. With a record to this point of 9 wins, 8 losses and an OT loss, they are nicely imbedded in the middle of the AHL's Western Conference standings - which is fine for this time of the year.
Sometimes, as I’ve said here before, a team plays pretty well and the puck just doesn’t go in for you. It happens, as we all know. So the three recent losses likely mean precious little.
I’m much more interested in how certain individuals—the ones who are expected to be with the Leafs some day—are playing. And I will be even more attuned to how those players are doing once we hit the stretch run and then into the playoffs come next spring.
This past spring, Jerry D’Amigo was an example of a guy who I thought looked pretty darn good for the Marlies in the playoffs. He really caught my eye some nights and made me wonder if he could be a sparkplug player for the big team some day. I tend to look at playoff performance as a possible harbinger of a young player's potential to be a difference-maker at the next level. That's no guarantee, of course, but almost nothing is. Regardless, I’m not too concerned about relatively meaningless minor-league games in November, though I’m pretty sure Dallas Eakins looks at things rather differently.
For his part, Nazem Kadri continues to put up points and has been a strong plus player of late (notably since he was a healthy scratch) as well. But I expect Marlies like he and Gardiner to play well—I look at them as part of the Leaf roster anyway. It’s some of the other players that I have a more acute interest in, in terms of seeing how they develop over the course of this season.
One of the most respected guys in the sports fitness business these days is a gentleman by the name of Matt Nichol. Matt is the former strength and conditioning coach of the Maple Leafs through a good portion of the 2000s when Pat Quinn was the GM and coach.
Over the years, Nichol has worked with some outstanding athletes in - and outside of - hockey. Interestingly, he was highly-enough thought of by now Maple Leaf Hall-of-Famer Mats Sundin to be invited by Mats to share in Sundin’s HOF night in Toronto recently.
So given Nichol’s excellent background in the fitness and training field, and specifically the fact that he spent many years on the “inside” with the Maple Leaf organization, Matteo Codispoti and I were pleased to be able to chat with him for our most recent “Leaf Matters” podcast. Matt is now heading up a company called Paragenix Systems (located at http://paragenixsystems.com ). They have a pretty famous clientele.
You can check out Episode 8 of "Leaf Matters" on iTunes here
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