This season the Leafs made a few waiver claim acquisitions, and one was to shore up RHD depth by claiming Alexey Marchenko from the Detroit Red Wings. Marchenko came in with a decent but inconsistent history with the Red Wings, but with Carrick hurt at the time, and Corrado becoming an increasingly unlikely to earn Babcock’s favour, the Leafs needed to bring in someone on the short term and Marchenko fit that bill.
As a Maple Leaf, however, his showing was somewhat disappointing.
The strengths that stand out to me in Marchenko are his age and contract. The Leafs needed an inexpensive acquisition in a time of need, and for that he was perfect. He also is a player who generally falls into the Leafs’ target age range at 25 years old. If he had been able to establish himself, he would have fit their timeline very nicely.
Marchenko also had a limited history with Mike Babcock, which meant he could come in likely having some familiarity with the systems, what his role would be, and how to impress his coach.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t quite able to impress Babcock. Marchenko didn’t see any action in the Leafs’ final 14 games, with Carrick healthy and Zaitsev and Polak both having momentum and established roles, there wasn’t room for a largely ineffective player in Marchenko.
By DTMAboutHeart’s Goals Above Replacement (GAR) model, Marchenko added just 0.4 GAR in the 2016-17 year. That includes his time with the Red Wings where his statistical performance was notably better. But even if that doesn’t enter the consideration, a 0.4 GAR player is replaceable by nature. The other 7 members of the Leafs’ D were all above 1.5 GAR, with Gardiner leading the pack at 7.4. Marchenko’s performance simply didn’t earn him a place. Within the components of GAR (the whole model is explained in a 5 part series starting here) he showed no obvious strengths or weaknesses, but the fact that he is just a replacement level player is a weakness in itself.
Marchenko is under contract with the Maple Leafs next season at $1.45M. If he were to go to the minors, the Leafs would be able to bury $1.025M of that in the AHL.
It would be hard to imagine Marchenko suddenly finding a role with the Maple Leafs after the end to last season. And with management’s repeated suggestions that certain Marlies from last season (Dermott most likely), and two new depth additions in Calle Rosen and Andreas Borgman, Marchenko will likely end up on the outside of things.
Obviously, since Marchenko was a waiver claim to come to the Leafs, he would again have to be waived to head to the AHL club. This would give another NHL club the opportunity to give him a shot. The likelihood of this happening is pretty unknown, as injuries and camp performances around the league will play a strong part.
All in all, it would be very surprising to see Marchenko play a regular season game for the Maple Leafs next year.