The Toronto Maple Leafs caught a lot of people off guard today, calling up forward Colton Orr from the Toronto Marlies. This call up comes just in time for him to play in the season finale. As crazy as it may sound, this is a fantastic decision by the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Colton Orr isn’t coming up to score.
There are three types of offensive players in hockey. There’s the person that when someone asks you to describe one of their goals, you can do it because they score so many. There’s the one that you can’t describe, because they’re pretty infrequent. Lastly, you go back to having an ability to be descriptive, but only because goals are so infrequent that they stand out.
It took me less time to think of a nice Orr goal than it did for most of the core forwards. My mind instantly went to the time that he beat Martin Brodeur on a breakaway.
But no, he’s probably not likely to pull a Boyd Devereaux and score a hat trick on Saturday night. If you ask him where he was ten goals ago, he’ll respond with the New York Rangers. His last point was some time in the 2012/13 season.
Colton Orr isn’t coming up to fight.
In the fourteen games that Colton Orr has played with the Toronto Marlies this year, do you know how many fights he’s won? Zero. Do you know how many he’s lost? Zero. This is because he hasn’t fought anybody since the preseason, when he easily handled Buffalo’s Mike Weber.
I’m not sure if Orr is too hot on the role that he’s created for himself anymore. Ever since he knocked out his on-ice rival / off-ice friend George Parros in 2013, he’s been looking for fewer fights and proceeding with more caution while in them. There’s less planned punching and more reactionary defence. He’s been come closer to the role of policeman, only to find that there isn’t much need for policing today.
With neither team in a position to cause trouble, the only way he drops the gloves is if he decides he needs to prove himself to someone.
Colton Orr isn’t coming up to win.
There’s no real correlation between fighting and winning; I think anybody who says otherwise is either lying for the sake of keeping something that entertains them in the game, or is stuck in 1962. As mentioned prior, Orr isn’t coming up to score. He can throw the body, but this just means he’s going to be chasing the puck a lot. Against a very good NHL team, the ice will be tilted against him whenever he steps on the playing surface.
Not that I’m expecting the front office to be in pursuit of a “big two points” here. Sure, they might want to see a victory for the sake of pride, but only if Carolina can pick up a win or an overtime loss tonight to lock the Leafs into top-5 pick territory. This is probably not part of a strategy to beat the Habs.
Colton Orr isn’t coming up to in hurt anyone.
After the season he’s had, fueled by the career he had before it, it wouldn’t be right. While many of his detractors will point and laugh at his lack of action, Orr hasn’t actually been a healthy scratch for many of his games this year. He suffered an upper body injury in October, and throughout the year, seemed to get consistently sidelined by what Gord Dineen described as “aches and pains”. When you make a living out of bodyslamming and punching people, it eventually catches up to your body, and there’s a lot of real estate on his frame for it to happen.
I can’t see him being interested in passing that on to another player on Saturday, even if it’s a member of Toronto’s biggest rival.
Colton Orr isn’t coming up because he complained.
One of the things that I’ve come to appreciate about Orr is that he’s been a consummate professional over his time in the Leafs organization. Consider the fact that this year’s assignment was his second exile to the AHL in as many contracts with the team; the first one of which in response to a major concussion. Did you ever hear a public word of discontent from him?
Despite the ability to talk back, the answer was always to the effect of “I need to work my way back up”. Orr put his nose to the the grindstone and integrated himself into his new team, both in 2012 and 2015. He tried to get better at playing the game, he was good to his teammates, and he took everything incredibly seriously. You can’t ask for much more.
Colton Orr is coming up as a thank you.
Look, at the end of the day, we all know that the enforcer role is dying. Without attaching names to faces, good riddance; hockey players can defend themselves in today’s day and age, and there’s no point in wasting roster spots on less talented players so they can punch a face once every few weeks and sit in a penalty box.
But at the same time, you still have to feel for a guy like Orr. He’s a veteran of the game who is seeing this revolution in player personnel observation happen before his eyes, and he’s been directly effected by it. But rather than demand things stay the same, he’s tried to evolve. While I still don’t think he’s a guy I’d want on the team as a hockey player today, he’s less of a liability than he was when he first joined the team in 2009.
Wow. 2009. It’s been six years now. His first game in blue and white came before anybody else’s that remained on the team. That’s pretty crazy to think about, really, and it will all likely come to an end in two and a half months. So might his NHL career; the 33 year old isn’t exactly getting younger, and that combination of age, recent track record, and ability will make it difficult to get another deal. That’s a shame, but at the same time, that’s hockey.
With all of this considered, it’s good to see him in the lineup on Saturday night. It’s the right decision. We’ll get to see the Leafs and Habs on Hockey Night In Canada. We might even get to be able to cheer for them. But no matter what, we’ll at least see the team give a veteran who paid his dues a proper sendoff.