The Toronto Maple Leafs find themselves entering the 2017-18 season with steady enough defence, but there are still question marks around the backend.
After a busy offseason, the Leafs enter this year with seven defencemen on their NHL roster and have a number of prospects who will be coming in and gunning for a spot on the NHL roster. Considering their current situation and a lot of depth on the backend, one should wonder where Martin Marincin fits in.
Marincin was limited to 25 games with Toronto this past season due to a lower-body injury early on in the season and was also a healthy scratch on many different occasions. In his short time with the Leafs during the regular season, he registered just one goal and seven points and was a plus-1, and he also racked up 25 hits and 27 blocks.
While the 6-foot-4, 210-pound blueliner possesses a great frame at the NHL level and takes decent care of the puck. His relative Corsi sits at a 2.1, meaning Toronto doesn’t fare too badly when he’s on the ice. Marincin’s had the weird type of career where he’s always been a guy who can slow down the pace of the game, but doesn’t really drive scoring totals all that much either way.
Still, Marincin does not use his size to his advantage and is not a physical force. Not only that, he doesn’t add too much offensively and doesn’t stand out. These factors drastically limit his overall ability, but also makes him less of a valued asset at the NHL level.
With that being said, it could be difficult for him to make a case for a spot on the Leafs’ defence come training camp, especially with a number of left-handed defencemen coming into the organization.
First off, let’s look at the rest of the depth on the Leafs’ blue line, and see how that affects Marincin. Toronto is relying on their young stars in Jake Gardiner and Morgan Rielly to fill out the top four, and also added more depth via free agency.
Toronto acquired more veteran depth on the backend this offseason, signing 36-year-old and Cup champion Ron Hainsey to a two-year deal, and he is coming off a decent year and an outstanding postseason run with the Pittsburgh Penguins. The team also inked young Swedish defencemen Calle Rosen and Andreas Borgman to contracts, but they will likely add more depth to the Toronto Marlies roster.
In addition to their newly-acquired defencemen, Toronto also has a number of promising prospects currently in the system. Travis Dermott is expected to make a strong push for an NHL spot this season. The 20-year-old is coming off an impressive 2016-17 campaign, where he finished with five goals and 24 points through 59 games and was one of the Marlies’ top defenders. Because of his strong showing this past season, as well as his excellent decision-making ability, speed and two-way play, he will be a name to watch during training camp.
Considering the Leafs are still relatively young on defence with Gardiner, Zaitsev, Rielly and Carrick the team will likely have Hainsey take on a role on the top four. He is a versatile blueliner and a big stay-at-home defenceman who is not only physical but takes good care of the puck. Hainsey is also coming off a strong postseason and may be ready to add more offence to his game.
Taking that into consideration, the Leafs’ defence should look something like this:
Jake Gardiner-Nikita Zaitsev
Morgan Rielly-Ron Hainsey
Connor Carrick-(Insert guy here)
The pairings might be off, who really knows what Babcock has up his sleeve? Five players should have spots, but the #6-7 roles are anyone’s best guess.
Again, while Marincin has the experience and ability to fill out the bottom six, the Leafs have a number of players that will outshine him. And from the looks of it, it seems that it will come to a battle between Dermott and Marincin for a spot on the Leafs’ blue line. If that’s truly the case, Dermott will win.
The 20-year-old is a left-hand shot and a solid two-way defender who can make quick decisions, take care of his own zone and jump up on the rush. Not only that but with one year left on his entry-level deal, he will likely put more effort in and be more of a standout player for Toronto on the backend.
Marincin will likely start the year as the team’s seventh defenceman and will have to truly shine and add more of an edge to his game if he wants to win a roster spot. He could stand to add more physicality and throw his weight around, as well as jump up in the rush. Still, the 25-year-old is in the final year of his contract, and if he wants to stay with the organization, he will have to bring more of an edge to the ice.