With the Leafs out of the playoffs, it’s time to find some silver linings in the last couple of games. For me, I always liked it when the team would give opportunities to their up-and-comers, giving the fans a taste of what is to come, and the staff an opportunity to see if they’re ready to make the leap.
Tonight, the Leafs will be doing just that, giving Drew MacIntyre his first ever start and Petter Granberg his first taste of the NHL.
Between The Pipes
MacIntyre has been waiting for this opportunity for a very, very long time. The 30 year old native of Charlottetown was drafted a little less than thirteen years ago, and has been doing his best to climb up the ranks since. Since his draft day, he’s been in the QMJHL, ECHL, KHL, and AHL trying to prove his worth, including the past year and a bit with the Toronto Marlies. Over that time, he’s had three sniffs at NHL action, but never from the opening faceoff.
When Jonathan Bernier was originally injured this year, MacIntyre was called up, and many thought that would be his time to debut. The games went by. James Reimer, while often hung out to dry, wasn’t putting up stellar numbers. Yet the start never came, and he headed back down with nothing to show for it other than a short cameo against the Devils and a bit of disdain. “I’m not saying I should have started. But of course I’m disappointed, I felt like I could have helped.”
There isn’t exactly much for him to help with now, but he’ll finally get his opportunity tonight. With speculation that Reimer will be on the market at the end of this season, this is a good time for MacIntyre to show that he could be an option as a backup next year.
At The Blue Line
Also auditioning for next season is Petter Granberg. Drafted by the Leafs 116th overall in the 2010 Entry Draft, the 21 year old defenceman has had a strong rookie year with the Toronto Marlies. While there was initial concerns that he would struggle to adapt to the North American sized ice, Granberg has been one of the most reliable defensive defencemen on the roster.
Stats in the AHL are limited, so the only noteworthy thing I can bring up from there is that he leads the team in plus/minus. I hate the stat from an NHL context, but for a defensive defenceman, it’s literally all I can show you numerically.
Visually, he’s very safe, and is often in the right position. He’s not a very “loud” player; you don’t notice him often because he neutralizes the play before it becomes an issue. He started the season with John-Michael Liles, and has since spent most of his time playing with Stuart Percy. He gets heavy minutes on the penalty kill (10th in the AHL), but generally isn’t seen on the powerplay.
I’m not sure how to feel about this call up. It really is dependant on the circumstances; I think that TJ Brennan is the most deserving member of the back end of an NHL shot, but since this is unlikely to be considered an emergency recall, you have to go with somebody that’s waiver exempt. This leaves himself, Percy, Eric Knodel, and Andrew MacWilliam. Knodel is still fresh out of the NCAA and adjusting to the professional life, so there’s no point in rushing him up, even for a game. MacWilliam is recovering from a concussion. This leaves Granberg and Percy, and knowing the Leafs, they’re probably more impressed with Granberg’s physical maturity.
One thing that Granberg has that can work to his advantage is the fact that he’s a right handed shot, and with there being speculation involving Cody Franson’s future, there’s a chance that he could slip into his place if the Leafs aren’t looking at a major upgrade (a topic for another day).
Beyond the crystal ball, however, this is a cool opportunity for two players who have put their hours in with the Marlies.
Photo courtesy of Christian Bonin / TSGPhoto.com