Custom Search

Frattin, Colborne: time to let the kids take a stronger role going forward

Hopefully, some youngster was at his or her first Leaf game at the ACC Saturday night.  What a memory the game will be.  The Monster overcame a deflected first-goal to help the Leafs bounce the struggling Caps by a score of  7-1.  Frattin scored his first and it was another huge night for Lupul and Kessel as well.

And how about Bozak, looking, on this night, not at all out of place with the hot Leaf wingers?

You know what I liked most?  It was when Gunnarsson came over to Franson after the former Predator hammered home his first with the Leafs late in the second period.  Gunnarsson’s smile reminded me of how Mats Sundin so often looked when a teammate who needed a shot of confidence scored a goal.

You have to believe it was a bit special for Steckel to score on the late-game breakaway against his former team.

A big night all-around, with the Leaf special-teams leading the way.


I remember when Darryl Sittler was drafted by the Maple Leafs in the summer of 1970.  He was coming off an excellent career with the London Knights in junior hockey and had many of the tools you look for in a young player, including a nice skill set.  He was a strong skater, had some size and a bit of an edge to his game.

He made the team that fall as a 20 year-old rookie. But as a young center, he was not expected to take on a big role, with more seasoned veterans like Norm Ullman, Dave Keon and the up and coming Jim Harrison ahead of him on the depth chart.

Head coach John McLellan moved Darryl to the wing at times, and he earned his minutes, though a wrist injury caused him to miss a lot of time that first season.

Over the next couple of seasons, his game grew and so did his impact. He was a star by his third season and we all know he soon became the team captain and face of the franchise for half a dozen or so seasons, one of the all-time Leafs.

My point is simply that it usually takes time for a guy to grow into his role at the pro level.  Not always, but usually.  Sittler’s long-time Leaf linemate, Lanny McDonald (another high first-round pick, in 1973), also took two years plus before he really began to establish himself as a top-flight player, and he went on to a Hall-of-fame career as well.

So here we have the Leafs, fighting and working to preserve their early-season points cushion in the Eastern Conference.  Injuries prompted the club to give more prominent minutes to young Frattin, and played him the just-called up Joe Colborne Saturday night.  It paid instant dividends in the first period, as Frattin scored his first NHL goal (we all knew it was just a matter of time and there will be more to come…) off a nice feed from, yes, Colborne.

No team can just play with young forwards and do it successfully, of course.  Even the Oilers, with all their emerging talent, need vets like Ales Hemsky and Ryan Smyth to carry a load.

But the Leafs will indeed need these youngsters to shine, or at least continue to make strides in their development, in the weeks to come.

It’s interesting.  Truth be told, the players who have gone down with injury (Armstrong, MacArthur, Grabovski, Lombardi) up front were OK but not playing their best before they were hurt.  This is not to minimize their value at all, simply to point out that, as fans, we tend to dramatize their loss even when we know they really weren’t playing all that well to begin with.

That said, it will be important that they all contribute and return to form when they come back, but for now, I will look to enjoy the presence of youngsters like Colborne (and perhaps Kadri, soon?) playing key minutes and Frattin in an important role, too.  This is a tremendous opportunity to create a bit of an early imprint on their careers—and on the Leaf management psyche.

We all know the Leafs are a youthful roster.  Kulemin and Kessel are young but already well-established NHL’ers.  Bozak is still just finding his confidence like the guys (Sittler and McDonald) I mentioned above.  He has room to grow.

I don’t think we will want a fourth line of Dupuis, Orr and Rosehill going forward but the truth is, when the team is healthy, that won’t be the fourth line.

In time, Frattin, Colborne and Kadri will be part of the future, maybe even a new “kid line” on the way.  Regardless, we will need the youngsters to step up, but that, as I said earlier, usually takes time.

All in all, a pretty inspired performance against a highly-ranked team.  Not a shock, as teams often play even harder when fighting through injuries. But at least they can walk into the arena in Raleigh Sunday night with a bit of strut, instead of feeling like they were in the midst of a “slump”.

Leafworld can exhale, at least for a night.


As for the Caps, they started out very strongly this season, but this road trip went south for them.  Who predicted Ovechkin would have the numbers he does?  As importantly, he just doesn’t look like Ovechkin most of the time.  He was a pile-driving force in the offensive zone in his early years.  Whether it’s the team’s renewed focus (starting last season) on team defense, the new rules, the threat of suspensions or his relationship with Boudreau, he’s not the same.  It will be way more important for Ovie and the Caps in the playoffs.  Maybe he’s saving his best for the springtime.  But right now he has that look of a disinterested- or at least frustrated- player.


  1. Last night's game was just what we needed. A goalie who made some great, game-saving stops, good specialty teams, speed and some inspired passing/scoring. For me, our best game since the Pens a few weeks ago. Great to have both Frattin and Franson (anyone else liking him the more we see him?) score, and Colborne made a fantastic pass for his first point.
    It feels like we're in the fourth year of a five year plan to me. Patience will be needed at times, we'll have losing streaks at times, but we're definitely getting better. If we have a goalie - or goalies - who can deliver the kind of performance Gustavsson did last night, I think we're on the right track.
    Funnily enough, I was thinking along similar lines last night, Michael. many Leaf fans demand perfection every game, but the teams that we look back on as the good ones, or the players that we look back on as our "stars", rarely showed that form consistently right off the bat, er, stick. It was a matter of growth. This edition of the Leafs feels like it's evolving just as the 70's team or the 90's team did.
    And one final thought - how long has it been since we've had the kind of depth we have now?

  2. Well said as always, Gerund O'...and yes, it's been a while since the team has had this kind of depth, and importantly, it is young guys who can play who are waiting in the wings.