Photo Credit: Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY SPORTS
The Toronto Maple Leafs shook up their roster a bit today, claiming Alexey Marchenko from the Detroit Red Wings and waiving Frank Corrado to make room for him. There are a lot of differing opinions here on both of these players, but the logical end conclusion here is pretty straight forward; the move is a worthwhile one, on the condition that Marchenko is playing regular minutes.
Marchenko is an interesting player. He’s not offensively driven, but he’s mobile and he’s not afraid of making brash decisions. He’s not small at 6’3 tall, 210 pounds in weight, and he’s an ever-so-valued right handed shot. But he’s fallen out of favour in the Red Wings’ lineup this year, playing about 18 minutes a night and producing just six points in 30 games with most of his time spent on a pair with Jonathan Ericsson.
Alas, given the immense amount of sketpicism surrounding Ericsson (and the Red Wings in general), many putting up depth offensive numbers and team-neutral possession numbers in an out-of-favour situation isn’t the worst result in the world for a 25-year-old defensive defenceman still finding his groove in the NHL.
Not to mention, the bar that he has to eclipse here is Roman Polak, a defenceman who isn’t overly mobile, shows his aggressive side in finishing checks rather than gap control, gives up more shots than any Leafs defenceman when he’s on the ice, doesn’t score, and while he’s effective in spurts on the penalty kill, he also has the worst penalty differential on the team. While filling his spot with another top-grade defenceman would be nice, even a slight improvement is welcome when you’re trying to make your team better now with now-aged players.
I’m still a believer that Frank Corrado, if given time to find his groove. But you can only sing that tune for so much time, and as much as I would’ve liked it if Mike Babcock would’ve had a change of heart, it clearly wasn’t going to happen. At a certain point, two years of continuous scratches are a pretty insurmountable degree of distrust, and February in a playoff push probably isn’t the time to give a guy a multi-game stretch of artificial preseason.
I do believe a team would be wise to pick Corrado up. I think he brings more to an NHL roster than the Leafs have given him credit for, and that if you’re a rebuilding team that doesn’t have much of a chance for the rest of the year (looking at you, Colorado and Arizona), you might get a surprise asset, or at least some flexibility to move another one of your veterans. But it wasn’t going to happen here.
Marchenko, on the other hand, could happen here. He only played fourteen games in the Babcock era for Detroit, but the now-Toronto bench boss was a big fan, even comparing calling him up to a trade deadline acquisition. In that small sample, Marchenko played his best hockey, both generating more shots and giving up fewer than the teammates around him.
Interestingly, his most frequent linemate under Babcock was Brendan Smith, a player I mentioned as a potential acquisition for the Leafs thanks to his play style, contract status, and expected cost. Granted, my ideal supplemental Red Wing for him was Mike Green, not Marchenko, but if Matt Hunwick and/or Martin Marincin aren’t fits on his left side, spinning back to Smith could be a real option at the right price.
What’s important first, though, is that he plays at all. This can’t turn into another Corrado situation where he waits for his moment. Marchenko, while likely not a superstar, is better than the depth defencemen that are playing now, and he has a theoretical level of trust in his old-is-new-again coach, so it’s imperative that he gets a chance to get regular minutes sooner or later for this move to make any sense.
Also of note
- Marchenko is 70/40 Eligible already, meaning that the Leafs don’t necessarily have to hold on to Martin Marincin as expansion draft exposure fodder. I like Marincin a little more than most, but having this flexibility is nice.
- For more on Marchenko, occasional network contributor Andrey Osadchenko had a quality piece on Wings Nation where he spoke to him last year. You can check that out here.
- You can also check out Wings Nation’s reaction to the news here.