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Should the Marlies be more focused on “prospect development” rather than winning in the AHL playoffs?

As the long off-season continues for the Leafs, I will on occasion provide links to some earlier Leaf-related posts from VLM. In case they might be of interest, here are some recent columns…
  • 15 things I really like that are going on in hockey these days…
  • How close are the Leafs to a Cup? (Check out the great old photo.)
  • What NHL team you hate the most
  • Would you like to see Luongo here?
  • The Leaf Cup that almost wasn’t in ‘64
  • If you could only add one player to the Leaf roster this summer, who would it be?

Right off the bat, I concede I’m not as familiar with all the Leafs’ minor-league prospects as the many fine and qualified writers and observers out there.  So as I wade into this subject today, I’m not coming at this from the perspective of having a strongly-stated position.  I’m more trying to gauge how those who visit this site feel about the current approach being employed by the organization when it comes to the Marlies and the AHL playoffs.

We all know the oft-stated and very public slogans that the Leafs have utilized in recent seasons (“The passion that unites us”, “Every game is a try-out”, etc.).  The organization hasn’t been able to offer prospects much in the way of playoff experience in recent times (either at the NHL or AHL level) and with the big team out of the playoffs again this spring, a lot of us have spent more time than we normally might trying to catch some of the Marlie playoff action.  I have not seen every moment of the Marlie playoff games to this point, including Thursday night’s big win in Game two of Round two against the Abbottsford Heat. (These guys sure can kill penalties, but they may not want to take quite this many out west...) But from what I have been able to detect, Dallas Eakins, while certainly giving the young guys their ice time, is mostly trying to “win”—which I applaud.

That said, here’s my question for you:  what is most important at this particular juncture for the Maple Leaf organization?  Is it winning the Calder Cup in the AHL, or ensuring that the legitimate Leaf prospects get plenty of pressure-packed playoff action—in all key situations?

Here’s what I’m wondering.  With Eakins (a fine coach, as we all know) utilizing veteran players who are unlikely to have a real future with the Leafs—including Mark Fraser, Jay Rosehill, Mike Zigomanis, Ryan Hamilton and Philippe Dupuis—are some more legitimate prospects missing potentially valuable ice team? 

Hey, I love Zigomanis and Hamilton.  And you generally need to have veterans with poise, experience and leadership if you have any serious hope of winning a championship at that level.  Clearly, the organization sees value in a deep playoff run this spring, not only in terms of big-game experience for the future Leafs, but also when it comes to the oft-used phrase, “learning how to win”.  The roster is filled with talented young players who are under the age of 22—and that’s great to see.  (Abbottsford strikes me as a much older squad…)  All the usual names are out there and playing, Gardiner, Kadri, Frattin, Colborne, D’Amigo, Percy, Blacker, Holzer.

I just wonder if you have any concerns that "winning" might be trumping giving the real prospects even more ice time?


  1. Nah. I hope that winning, or having a shot at, the Calder Cup would make 'em hungry for more success.

  2. I feel that in any sport the junior team is there to produce players for the senior team.
    But being starved of any play off action with the leafs for so long i can understand why people put winning with the Marlies before development

  3. I hear you- thanks Icebhoy (Iain).....I think the organization is trying to do both- win and develop the "kids".

  4. Hi Michael

    I think they're doing a pretty good job of it. The Marlies are something of a veteran AHL team anyway, but the 'big prospects' (the guys who might be expected to have a shot at the NHL next year) are getting their time and playing a big role in this playoffs.

    Stu Percy and Jesse Blacker have kind of 'split time', but Blacker just returned from injury. I'd suspect Percy is not ticketed to play any higher than AHL next season.

    Not entirely sure why Mueller and Ashton have played fewer than the full complement of games, could be injury related also.

    We can't forget too that some of the names we often hear floated, guys like McKegg, Ross, Biggs, Devane... they're still OHL/NCAA kids. They may not even have been on the clear day roster. We won't likely see them for a year or two with the Marlies.

  5. I agree, Mark. As I watch more and more of the Marlies in the playoffs, the "kids" are certainly getting their fair share of responsibility and ice time.

    I think Ashton did have a minor injury, but I'm not certain. I think it was also an opportunity to look at some other prospects.

    Thanks Mark.