TLN Roundtable: #FreeMarchenko

MARCHY

The Leafs are a few hours away from taking on the Buffalo Sabres, and once again, Alexey Marchenko, who the Leafs added a week back, is nowhere to be found. Well, maybe not nowhere to be found’ he’s chilling up in the press box somewhere. But he certainly isn’t on the ice, so our squad takes their best guesses at when the youngster’s day will come.

Mike Fail

Alexey Marchenko, the Russian Corrado.

Cam Lewis

After the Sharks acquire Roman Polak for a 2019 second round pick.

Sam Blazer

With the way they’ve dealt with Marchenko so far, it is a very real possibility that we don’t see him dress until an injury happens. He is an improvement over Polak but many coaches don’t want to shake the boat no matter the circumstances. While Babcock is forward thinking in many regards, not playing Marchenko immediately over Polak is a big oversight. Is it a season-changing decision? No. It could end up being a death by a thousand cuts scenario where the mistakes add up and it finally leads to a crucial goal against. In a divisional race that could end up stacking up very favorably, they can’t afford to have holes on the back end. Leafs’ fans should hope that the change comes sooner rather than later.

Ryan Hobart

It seems obvious to me that the Leafs plan here is to continue playing Roman Polak until the deadline, shop him, then put Marchenko in. The total added value of replacing Polak with Marchenko over a two-week period is not significant enough to affect the Leafs run at the playoffs. And if it means getting a second round pick instead of a fifth, I think it’s a value added, or at least value-neutral, decision.

Jeff Veillette

Clearly, we’re an optimistic bunch here this weekend. I don’t know if I’m ready to agree with the others about this being another purgatory situation or the Roman Polak pump-up maneuver, though.

While we’re all getting antsy to see the new toy that Marchenko is to the roster, I do see a bit of legitimacy to the idea that he could genuinely be getting accustomed to the team’s play style. While Babcock’s Leafs carry a lot from Babcock’s Wings, it’s not a perfect clone of a system and Marchenko didn’t spend that much time under his wing to begin with. As well, Marchenko fell into the mix during a stretch where the defensive group has pretty much been universally bad or universally good; the only exception being a night of Martin Marincin pulled him away, and even that is on the coast of the blue line from him.

Marchenko will probably need an injury to a right-handed defenceman or a wholesale bad night from the third pair to see an opportunity. While I do agree that Toronto is now more likely to move Roman Polak now that they have an extra right-handed shot, I don’t think that’s what’s keeping Marchenko out. We’ll have to see, but I don’t think it’s going to take three more weeks for him to make his debut. I hope not, at least. 

  • Stan Smith

    It appears the general consensus is that Marchenko is here to take Polak’s spot, and that Polak and Hunwick is for some reason or other, the Leafs weakness on defence. I say to those people, go back over the past month and look at the goals that were scored against. Check out the numbers of the defencemen that are on the ice. Notice you see a lot of 44,22,8 and 51, with a dash of 52 in there in the few games he played. You don’t see a lot 46 and 2. The Leafs defensive issues over that time period have not been with the third pair.

    It may very well be that the Leafs will deal Polak at the deadline. If they do it is because he is a commodity that teams are looking for come playoff time, a depth dman they can get cheap, that can be counted on to actually play defence, and kill penalties. He didn’t hurt the Shark’s last season.

    When they first picked up Marchenko I had high hopes that maybe he was a hidden gem that Babcock could work his magic on, and that he would step right in, play a regular shift, and make the Leafs’ D better. I think now that the simple reason is that they figure he is a better #8 guy, or better yet, a #4 guy on the right side, than Corrado.

    • Tigon

      I agree with some things but when you actually look at the players dragging down others, it is Polak. It would be addition by subtraction. At even strength all he can really do is 1) get out of position to make a hit, 2) block shots, and 3) hold the puck against the boards. He doesn’t move the puck towards the neutral zone at all.

      I understand that point producing isn’t the only important thing as a defenseman but you have to at least be able to skate and move the puck forward to someone else. Both things Polak does very poorly or not at all.

      • Stan Smith

        I couldn’t disagree more. Polak is very rarely out of position. He does block shots. as for #3 what he does is keeps the opposing player pinned to the boards to allow a teammate to take the puck. He is the weakest dman at passing the puck out of the zone, which goes along with his lack of offensive skills, but in most cases is quite capable of using a short pass to get to a teammate in the zone.

        The goals against numbers and Goals for % clearly show it is not Polak and Hunwick that are dragging the defence down. That title goes to Morgan Rielly.

    • LukeDaDrifter

      Let’s not forget Marchenko was waived, not press-boxed, by a fading Red Wings team that is tied for 26th overall in the league. I am not sure why Sam Blazer would say “not playing Marchenko immediately over Polak is a big oversight.” ” It could end up being a death by a thousand cuts scenario “.

      As you point out most the 5 on 5 goals against us have not been scored when Polak and Hunwick are on the ice. Like most others here I would love to see how good he is defensively wearing the blue and white.

    • HockeyKeeperKit

      I agree with Tigon. It’s kind of similar to having a competent 3rd and 4th for scoring purposes. Sure, their main purpose is defensive duties, but it’s kind of an added bonus if they are at least adept at moving the puck the other direction. Polak and Hunwick aren’t really playing much because they are now defined as “specialists” playing mainly on the PK or on defensive zone starts. Its similar to years ago when our 4th line was centred by Steckel (ugh, remember that?). While we can all agree that a guy like Gardiner largely skews to the offensive zone with his gifts, it would be much more beneficial to have him starting primarily in the zone furthest from our net.

      That all being said, I wonder how much this all has to do with the forwards. We had all discussed a few years ago how bad the defense was under Carlyle and it was largely agreed upon that the forwards just weren’t committed to playing D and were much more focused on fast-break hockey. I wonder if maybe Babcock has lost the room a bit on the defensive game (not that he’s “lost” the room, just that the players are kind of lost in the doldrums of midseason hockey) or if their defensive commitment has just waned under the eventual fatigue on a lot of these rookies. Just a thought…

      • Stan Smith

        I think Babcock is taking the same approach that Glen Sather did with the Oilers in the 80’s. He is sacrificing defense for offense, and just letting the younger players play. At some point in time they will worry more about defense.

        You are also correct that it isn’t only the guys playing defense, but a 5 player job.

        It isn’t only Gardiner’s offensive play that carries him, but Rielly’s as well.