November 07 2013 02:52PM
With the announcement that Mark Fraser is ready to return to the Leafs' lineup after a knee injury, I speculated who would come out of the Leafs' lineup for Friday night's game. As expected, based on everybody and their dog's reports, it looks like Morgan Rielly.
Morgan Rielly would appear to be the odd man out with Mark Fraser returning from injury.— Jonas Siegel (@jonasTSN1050) November 7, 2013
On one hand, this shouldn't come as a shock considering Rielly was a healthy scratch prior to Mark Fraser's injury. On the other hand, what's the point in burning a year of Rielly's entry level deal if the only games he's going to play in are when somebody's hurt?
Carlyle on Rielly: "What Morgan has to understand is that in certain situations those mistakes are not ones we’re going to tolerate."— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) November 7, 2013
These are as of Oct 25, but the point stands, Rielly/Franson shouldn't be a defensive pairing. pic.twitter.com/kYAbUHyxY7— Gus Katsaros (@KatsHockey) November 7, 2013
Franson has his own defensive warts for Rielly as a partner. Young dman like Morgan needs defensive support to take advantage of rushing— Gus Katsaros (@KatsHockey) November 7, 2013
What Randy Carlyle is saying about Rielly is not without merit. Rielly has had his defensive blemishes in the few NHL games he has played. In fairness, the same can be said about every other Leafs defender. For this reason, the move to sit Rielly, if that is in fact what the Leafs are doing tomorrow, is political. That's not necessarily the wrong thing to do.
While I disagree with any decision to scratch Rielly at this point, I can understand how it may be tough decision to tell a veteran player, even a younger guy like Gardiner, "Look, the teenager is staying in ahead of you. Sorry." I'm certainly not saying I agree with it, but that is likely the thought process.
Based on the numbers put forth by Gus, there is an issue on the Leafs' defence. Well, what else is new? But that is to say the Leafs seem to have too many defencemen (don't forget about Liles), but not enough that play the right side and not enough that play well enough in their own end. Jake Gardiner has voiced that switching to the right side has been an adjustment, and guys like Rielly, and Gardiner for that matter, are not being complemented by the proper partners. The Leafs drafted Rielly to be a gun-slinger. While you want him to be better defensively, you've got to give him the freedom to be what he is.
Perhaps the biggest question of all: On a perfectly healthy Leafs defence, how, when, and where does Rielly play?