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.
Alexey Marchenko, the Russian Corrado.
After the Sharks acquire Roman Polak for a 2019 second round pick.
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.
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.
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.