Mark Fraser ready to return

                                           Photo courtesy of Jason Schwabe

As Sportsnet 590 the Fan reporter David Alter mentioned on the Steve Dangle Podcast last week, it looks like the Leafs will be getting defenceman Mark Fraser back from a knee injury for Friday’s game against the New Jersey Devils.

Will he actually play? That doesn’t seem like it’s written in stone.

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If Randy Carlyle does decide that Fraser will play in his first game since October 2nd against Philadelphia, somebody will need to come out. Well, that, or one of the current defencemen need to learn how to play centre.

The logical choices from either a political standpoint, performance standpoint, or both, seems to be one of Morgan Rielly, Jake Gardiner, or Paul Ranger.

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Rielly is a teenaged rookie who was a healthy scratch prior to Fraser’s injury. He’s also averaging the least amount of ice time among Leafs defenceman with an average of 17:49 per game.

Jake Gardiner wasn’t always in Carlyle’s good books last season, but so far in 2013-14 he is averaging just under 20 minutes per game and has logged over 20 minutes of ice time in five of his last six games. In fact, Gardiner is third in average ice time among Leafs defenders behind Dion Phaneuf and Cody Franson. It doesn’t seem to make much sense to take a guy like that out of your lineup.

Paul Ranger, the oldest of the trio, seems to be showing signs of the offensively gifted blueliner fans were hoping for, but his defensive lapses are still a big issue. If the comments on this site or on Twitter are any indication, Ranger is the guy fans would like to see have a breather. Because of politics and optics however, you never know.

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If I may offer an off-the-board pick: Carl Gunnarsson. I’ve always been a huge believer in Gunnarsson. I think he’s a very underrated player, and he’s the perfect guy, at least within this roster, to complement Dion Phaneuf’s style. That being said, he’s currently last among Leafs D in average even strength time on ice (15:23), and has played just 57 seconds of powerplay time all season. He’s also got just one point in 15 games. His play hasn’t been particularly great so far this season, but he averages the second-highest amount of short-handed ice time among Toronto defenceman (3:51), so he obviously still serves a very important purpose.

The other factor here is that if Fraser returns on Friday, will he still be in the lineup on Saturday in Boston against to Bruins?

Lots of questions. What say you?

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  • Bertly83

    Put Fraser in Friday, sit Ranger.

    Put Ranger back in Saturday.

    Do not sit Gardiner or Rielly due to having both Ranger and Fraser healthy.


    Gunnarsson Phaneuf
    Rielly Franson
    Gardiner Fraser


    Gunnarsson Phaneuf
    Rielly Franson
    Gardiner Ranger


    Gardiner Phaneuf
    Gunnarsson Rielly
    Brennan Franson

  • Bertly83

    We have lots of depth on defence so it makes sense to trade a dman for a #1C. I was a big champion for trading Kessel for 1C but after his fight on Saturday with Burrows I prefer to keep him on the leafs because of his intangibles and grit.

    It makes sense to trade Liles for center but Liles would only return a 2C (say Liles for Stajan). This is not a big problem as Bozak could still be the 1C and Kadri could play a sheltered 3C.

  • Bertly83

    Am I the only one who hates gunner? I understand the guy blocks shots and their winning percentage is up when he plays and yadda yadda but he doesn’t impress me one bit. I would take Phaneuf, Gardiner, Fraser, Reilly, and Franson over him in a second. And I wouldn’t be opposed to sitting him some nights in favour of Liles and Ranger, while neither of their games’ are perfect either I feel like they just bring more to the table. I’m not saying Gunner is terrible but his puck skills are awful at times, and he never seems to make a “great” play…. While his defensive play is admittedly good sometimes he never wows me with it and seems to get beat decently often.

    A lot of people talk like he’s untouchable, just wanted to throw my two cents in! Go Leafs Go

    • Bertly83

      In my books Gunnar is a fine #4 D-man, he isn’t flashy by any means but he does his job and can play good defense. He’s also got the best active stick amongst our D corps, instead of being physical he just pokes the pucks away. He is, however, horrible with the puck and has trouble clearing the zone.