Frank Corrado’s conditioning stint is over, how did he do?

170107-sm-202-TSG_1295
Photo Credit: Christian Bonin/TSGPhoto.com

The last two weeks were a magical experience. Okay, maybe that’s pushing it; they were just hockey games, most of which the Toronto Marlies lost. But Frank Corrado played in all seven games he was available to play in with them, after being sent down for a conditioning stint to get back into game rhythm. They’re over now though, and as of this morning, he was practicing with the Leafs again.


The question now, though, is when he’ll get his next chance to play. In that two weeks, Toronto’s defence had a clean bill of health, with nobody missing time, or even taking a minute or two on the bench to recover from a stinger. So he won’t get back into the lineup in the most direct way.

My mission statement throughout the year, as a believer in what Corrado could bring, has been to simply slot him in where Roman Polak currently is. But even then, the Leafs went 3-1-1 in that stretch, and, while they were sheltered, the Hunwick-Polak had positive underlying numbers to the point where they kept up with Jake Gardiner and Connor Carrick in almost every shot and goal-based metric. Would I expect that to continue? Probably not, they’ve shown little to no track record of being able to tilt the ice for an extended period of time. But this is probably the worst week of the year for Corrado to point and say “I can better”.

He did, however, do quite well with his Marlies tour of duty.

Game Date G A PTS +/- SH PIM Partner
TOR @ MB 2017-01-03 0 0 0 0 5 2 Valiev
TOR @ MB 2017-01-04 0 0 0 0 3 0 Valiev
RCH @ TOR 2017-01-07 0 0 0 1 4 0 Dermott
RCH @ TOR 2017-01-08 0 0 0 -1 1 0 Dermott
WBS @ TOR 2017-01-11 0 1 1 0 3 0 Campbell
TOR @ SYR 2017-01-13 0 2 2 1 0 2 Dermott
RCH @ TOR 2017-01-14 0 0 0 1 1 2 Campbell

In total, the 23-year-old put up three assists, 17 shots on goal, six penalty minutes, and a +2 rating over the course of his conditioning stint, playing with three different defensive partners over that stretch. His production here should be put into context a little; all three of his assists came as part of Tony Cameranesi’s three goals in two games, and in every case, the assists came from Corrado throwing the puck behind the net and it being recovered.

At the same time, few on the Marlies are generating any semblance of even strength offence to begin with, so the fact he was involved all is a small victory.

“I thought he was really good early,” said Marlies head coach Sheldon Keefe of his stint, while stressing that there was a dip over time. “I thought he showed signs of fatigue and just not being the same player that he was in the early stages. His competition also increased as the games went, and the schedule obviously is what it is and it wears on players. He led our team in ice time in virtually every game he played, and for a guy who hasn’t played I’m sure that was a factor.”

“Early on he was really good, outstanding, a real standout on the ice. I thought he was a little more human and blended in amongst the group for the remainder of the games.”

Keefe’s assessment was similar to my own initial thoughts. There were certain moments where Corrado looked head and shoulders above everybody else on the ice; he looked particular apt at suffocating opposing rushes, even or odd man. He did get himself caught on occasion, though, particularly when trying to fight off attempted screens in the Syracuse game. But again, we’re talking about a player who went from not playing in game situations for months, to hopping onto a not-entirely-familiar team midway through the year and being their Time-on-Ice leader in a 7 game in 12-day stretch. That’s throwing a player to the wolves if I’ve ever seen it, and that’s probably exactly what he needed.

Personally speaking, I appreciated getting to see a couple of live games of his these past few weeks, if only because it made some of his positives and negatives a bit more apparent. You gain an appreciation for how aggressive he can be on closing gaps, while also realizing that he might be one of the most awkward looking skaters in the organization; while it works, he always looks like he’s dragging along and has a perpetually concerned look on his face. It kind of makes you wonder if some of the knock against him is simply a “he plays weird” subconscious bias. Now, I can’t imagine that this organization would keep a player out because he looks a little different, but some of the fan perception could come from there.

With all of this said, Corrado was just happy to play. “Being involved in all the action, the battles, being a hockey player. It’s a nice feeling to be involved in,” Corrado said on January 11th after facing first-overall Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. “Especially close games like that, that’s kinda what you look forward to.”

“I think what happens, especially as a defenceman,” Corrado said when asked about the adjustment curve “If you watch the best defencemen around the world, they have all these subtleties that are tough to explain, they can’t even explain them. They just do them. That’s one thing that you need to build a little bit. The more you get into a groove, the more you can build those things. It’s tough to explain, but those are just kind of things that happen in the middle a game that you don’t even realize, but you just do them.”

We’ll see how long it takes for him to get back into the Leafs lineup with regularity, if it happens at all, but having a good few weeks and getting back into game shape has likely been a huge stepping stone towards that.

  • tealeaves

    Feburary is dense schedule wise and now the leafs have a depth option in Corrado and a depth goalie to draw on in case of injury or conditioning. The leafs didn’t need Corrado much this season because of the absense of injury and because as Babcock knows Polak’s intangibles was a superior option.

  • Stan Smith

    You are correct that this is the worse case scenario for Corrado to be finishing his conditioning stint. Not only are the top six healthy, but even the players that people had questioned previously as holding spots Corrado could arguably replace, are playing good hockey. Carrick isn’t making the mistakes he was earlier and Hunlack are starting to up the pace of their game.

  • LukeDaDrifter

    The biggest problem the Leafs have with Corrado is what to do with him. Like the Canucks, I think Leafs feel he needs some more seasoning in the AHL. They could take a chance waiving him but whether he gets claimed or not, someone must come up from the Marlies to take his spot. When one of our defencemen gets injured what’s next? If he gets claimed have we weakened the team from what we had before?

      • LukeDaDrifter

        That is the 64 thousand dollar question. Like Leafs management I assumed one of our D-men would get injured and Frankie would get some time in the line up. Marincin did get in but he got injured himself.

        With Marlie’s coach Sheldon Keefe saying “I thought he showed signs of fatigue and just not being the same player that he was in the early stages.” I wonder if that is code for saying something else. What I look at is last summer when Leafs nearly went to arbitration with him and his agent advised him to except the one year $600,000 contract the Leafs offered. That is only a tiny bit above the minimum NHL wage for 2016-17: of $575,000. That tells me the Leafs don’t really put much value on him. Martin Marincin signed a two year deal for $1,250,000

        For example on the Marlies, Viktor Loov (shoots left) is signed for $692,500. Andrew Nieson (shoots left) is signed for $686,667, Travis Dermitt (shoots left) signed for $894,157.

        It is always risky giving up to soon on a young defencemen who is a good skater. So my opinion is not only was Corrado sent down for conditioning. He was also sent down to have Keefe assess him and check out the game tapes to decide if they should waive him and let him get the game time he needs to develop his defensive skills. As our management never reveals what they really think we will have to wait on their assessment. If they waive him shortly the assessment is not good. If he remains as a healthy scratch they still think he has potential.

        • Stan Smith

          I personally think one of the reasons Corrado is in the position he is in is that he is seen as a limited asset. The Marlies have to types of players on their roster. Ones that the Leafs think have a future in the NHL, and ones that don’t. To me Corrado is seen as someone in between. He is better than a career AHLer, but without the potential the guys the Leafs want to develop into full time players. Unfortunately for him, that makes him a spare part, to keep around just in case.