Jeff Veillette (Jeffler)
March 20 2014 03:16PM
Lost in both Toronto teams playing last night, Paul Ranger's unfortunate injury, and the never-ending goaltender drama, was the fact that Spencer Abbott set a Toronto Marlies single season record last night, notching his 51st and 52nd assists of the year, overtaking Tim Stapleton's record from 2008/09. That's all well and good, but there's a couple more things to touch up on.
Can He Chase More?
There are still 15 games left in the year, after all. The next question is, can he hit the points record before the season ends? Honestly, I don't see why he couldn't.
Stapleton's 08/09 season is again the benchmark, scoring 28 goals and 51 assists in 70 games, a raote of 1.13 points per game. Abbott's 68 in 58 have given him 1.17. Even at the 70 game mark, this projects him at 82, or possibly even 85 if he stays healthy and continues to produce. If for whatever reason the Leafs send down Peter Holland or Carter Ashton (who has been a massive benefactor of Abbott's play in his time here), all the better; it gives him more, higher quality linemates to push the limit.
It's also worth noting that Abbott already set the longest point streak record earlier in the year, scoring 19 points in 13 games.
Is It Really A Record?
It is, in the sense that Winnipeg Jets scoring records pretend that Ilya Kovalchuk, Dany Heatley, Marian Hossa, and the rest of the Atlanta Thrashers didn't exist. The Toronto Marlies don't include prior history. The St. John's Maple Leafs record was set by Rich Cernomaz in 1993/94, when he scored 65 assists in 78 games, the best of four 60+ assist efforts by players in the Newfoundland affiliate era. The Newmarket Saints record was 59 in 79 (Wes Jarvis, 87/88), the St. Catherine's Saints record was 72 in 80 (Bruce Boudreau, 82/83), and the New Brunswick Hawks, Toronto's first ever AHL affiliate, tops everybody, with Mike Kaszycki holding the "true" record, with 82 assists in 80 games in 1981/82.
But Does This Mean Anything?
Of course, the question that's important to most Leafs fans is "Will it transition?". Abbott has all the tools to be a top six forward in the NHL, with creativity, incredible vision and offensive awareness, and lethal passing ability to match it. But at 25 years old and with only one game played, teams will be hesitant to give him that shot, especially because the rest of his game (not to mention his body frame) isn't likely to transition to the bottom six.
Abbott has made life a lot easier for several of his teammates this year. Carter Ashton, Jerry D'Amigo, and Greg McKegg can all attest to their best stretches this season coming when they play on the same line as him. A creative playmaker lets a shooter focus on finding a place to score, instead of just trying to be open, and Abbott is the guy that allows for that. He also filled in the gap on the left point that John-Michael LIles' departure created on the top powerplay unit, leading to some spectacular chemistry with T.J. Brennan.
I think that if the Leafs see some injuries in the top six, or get into a major powerplay rut, he'd be a good option to consider. But looking even bigger than that, if I was the GM of a rebuilding team that had no winter depth, I'd definitely be calling about him. I can't imagine the price is high, and I firmly believe that there's some upside to him. He's far from sure-fire, but definitely a low-cost, high-reward player.
For now, he's by far the MVP of the Marlies forward core and one of the biggest reason's this team is in playoff contention.