Yesterday morning, the Toronto Marlies announced the termination of goaltender Drew MacIntyre’s professional tryout, and the signing of a full AHL contract for the remainder of the season, a move that has some happy, and others confused. The move comes immediately after the return of Jussi Rynnas to the team, leading to some confusion. After all, Rynnas’ departure was the reason for adding MacIntyre in the first place. With that said, it’s a more important signing than you’d think.
To start, having four goaltenders signed in your organization is a rather shortsighted move. Five, or if you’re particularly courageous, six, is the way to go. While they don’t all have to have NHL contracts, if you want success at both the NHL and AHL level, you should have two goalies in your league, and one more with an applicable contract in the league below. For the Leafs, the pair is Reimer and Scrivens, and the floater is Rynnas (Owuya has an NHL capable contract too, but let’s be realistic). For the Marlies, the pair now likely becomes Rynnas and MacIntyre, with Owuya as your ECHL floater. Remember that for the AHL team, an injury at both levels means an additional goaltender is necessary.
This situation was put into practice last season with the Leafs, when both James Reimer and Jonas Gustavsson went down at the same time. Scrivens and Rynnas jumped to the big club, Owuya took the starting job, and Chris Noonan was signed, only to never play. Having things get that severe again is a longshot, but having some sort of backup plan is a good idea.
What needs to be addressed when considering the signing, however, is the idea of giving MacIntyre minutes, despite being a 29 year old goaltender on an AHL contract, rather than giving that time to Rynnas and Owuya, both very much considered prospects. But there’s logic to that too.
First things first, by taking this angle, you’re only considering the development of two players on the roster. Nothing helps a player more than winning and playing more games, and after coasting through the start of the season, Toronto is now starting to lose grip of its playoff spot. A major reason for this is a lack of goal scoring, having scored more than three goals just once in the past nine games, scoring just 2.64 goals per game in their past seventeen, and running a sub-10% powerplay post-lockout.
No doubt, losing a significant chunk of the core is the reason for this, and it’s not unreasonable to think that a team that still has solid chunks of talent will eventually rebound and at least somewhat compete. But as they struggle, they need somebody to keep them in games. MacIntyre’s four starts to date have been a 2-1 win, 2-1 shootout loss, 3-1 loss with an empty net goal against, and a 2-1 win. As such, he’s allowed just 1 goal in three of his four starts, has a 0.942 save percentage, and an absurd 1.38 save percentage. Here’s how he stacks up compared Owuya and Rynnas.
In their first four starts…
In their last four starts…
In their best four consecutive starts…
It’s worth noting that MacIntyre has a higher save percentage in his worst game (0.923) than Owuya does in his best (0.914). Granted, we’re comparing a small sample size to a netminder who was a 0.930 with the Marlies last year, but when everybody else is on a cold streak, you need to ride the hot one in the stat that matters most. Truth be told, the Marlies getting into the playoffs and giving the rest of the prospects more time is much more important than a few extra starts for Rynnas and Owuya.
Besides, as tough as it is to say, the right development move for Owuya may be more time in the ECHL. It wasn’t part of the plan at the start of the year, but neither was Mark being an 0.880 goaltender right now. For his sake, it may be best to get a month or so of consistent starts under his belt. Rynnas, on the other hand, will always be streaky, and can come in when hot, and back up when off his game.
At the end of the day, it sounds odd to say that signing a 29 year old, likely career AHLer is the best move for a team in terms of developing prospects. But winning games is important. For now, he’s holding the team on his shoulders as much as he can, and if that’s not sustainable, he’ll at least be a constant insurance in case of injury. It gives a struggling prospect in Owuya time to work on his game, if the ECHL is the route they go with him. It gives Rynnas someone to counter-balance with, something he hasn’t had since Scrivens left. It doesn’t take up an NHL contract. Really, there’s everything to gain and little to lose.
Toronto faces Binghamton, at Ricoh Coliseum, at 3PM tomorrow. The aforementioned MacIntyre will likely get the start. And hey, if you retweet this tweet before 9PM EST, you could get yourself a pair of tickets!