Morgan Rielly the odd man out

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. 

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?

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Let’s have a look at a couple of quotes. The first is from Randy Carlyle courtesy of TSN’s Mark Masters, while the next two are from pro scout and friend of the Nations Gus Katsaros.

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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?

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  • I really would love to see Phaneuf with Gardiner, I think Gardiners recovery speed would compliment Dion so if he made a mistake Gardiner’s able to get back, I also think Gunnarsson and Rielly would work well Gunnars got a very calming influence which would be good for Rielly and it also allows him to be the go to guy on offence between the pairing.

  • “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”

    I think this article is a little pre-mature. It’s one game. If Rielly sits for 5-10 games the I think we could start pushing the “what is going on here”. I think it’s likely that Gardiner, Rielly, Fraser and Ranger will get revolving time in the press box, and if that’s the case I wouldn’t complain too loudly about that.

  • “”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”

    An interesting point from an old Elliott Friedman’s 30 Thoughts:

    “Same goes for Morgan Rielly in Toronto. The Penguins indicated the nine-game mark isn’t as important to them with Olli Maatta. While playing 10 NHL games burns the first year of an entry-level contract, a player does not gain credit towards arbitration or free agency until the 40th game.”

    So he needs 40 games, otherwise it won’t count towards his UFA status. You burn a year of his entry level deal but he’s still and RFA and we have seen how well Nonis can grind down an RFA, just ask Kadri and Franson

    Perhaps the plan was Rielly plays until Fraser is back and then plays sparingly until the World Junior camp and then they bring up Liles and/or Brennan to be showcased for trade while Rielly is on loan to Team Canada?

    After the World Juniors, again use Rielly sparingly until his 20th birthday in the beginning of March when they can send him to the AHL to play 25 minutes a night on the top pair and then back up to NHL for the playoffs.

    That would be about or less than 40 regular season games and Rielly would be no closer to being a UFA.

    Sound like a shrewd Nonis plan?

  • People are funny about sitting Reilly. The emotion that folks have of Reilly sitting sounds like Phaneuf was benched. BTW did anyone notice Therrien sat Subban. This stuff happens especially to young player (rather then veterans) so not to destroy the rookies confidence.

  • STAN

    Carlyle on Rielly: “What Morgan has to understand is that in certain situations those mistakes are not ones we’re going to tolerate.”

    NOT GOING TO TOLERATE. Unless it’s an older, more mature, experienced and highly-paid D-man. THEN, we’ll allow him to screw up on a semi-regiular basis. Y’know, he’s “paid his dues”, whatever that means.

    Komisarek is the only one who has actually paid a bit of a price (not money) for being slow-footed (Fraser), making boneheaded clearing attempts (Franson, Gardiner)), or blatant giveaways (Phaneuf). The rest? Meh.

    But sitting him for a game or two is no big deal at this stage.

    In my eyes he’s a future all-star.