The prequel to Travis Dermott probably deserves a bit of discussion as we start out on our march towards meaningful(ish) hockey. Borgman put together a pretty solid first year in North America, playing in 48 games for the Leafs before riding out the year on a championship AHL team. Borgman is in a bit of a pickle though. Gardiner, Rielly, Dermott pretty much own the left side of the blueline. Zaitsev gets one of the right side jobs for reasons likely salary related, and Hainsey will likely be one of the lefty guys appearing on the right side as well. That leaves Carrick, Holl, Borgman, Rosen, Ozhiganov, and Marincin all fighting for the 6th and 7th spots on the roster.
The Story on Andreas Borgman
The Leafs took a low risk gamble on bringing over a solid 22 year old free agent from the SHL last season. A strong camp, and the ability to use his strength immediately earned Andreas Borgman a role on the Leafs, often shackled to Roman Polak. Despite this usage, Borgman looked pretty good, and was given the opportunity to play in a number of situations for the Leafs. If it wasn’t for the rise of Travis Dermott, I’m sure most people would have been comfortable having Borgman play out the season with the Leafs.
Of course, Dermott is pretty darn good, and Borgman was eligible for waivers, so Borgman took his act to the AHL and put in a solid 25 game appearance there as well. Injuries derailed Borgman from being part of the Marlies playoff run, but really Borgman didn’t need the high profile platform. He’s still a legitimate threat to compete for the Leafs again, although his waiver exempt status might create a bit of a “tie goes to the veteran” situation.
The numbers for Borgman are a story in three parts.
First his overall boxcars:
I mean, he’s a defenseman, so all we’re really taking away here is that he can produce some offense and is a solid two-way guy. The fact that he was able to repeat his SHL numbers in the NHL is pretty solid, and that 10 points in 14 game SHL playoff appearance is why he’s a Leaf to begin with. The fact that Borgman has a physical game to go along with this offense probably gives him a leg up in the 6th defenseman sweepstakes, and honestly a Borgman-Carrick bottom pairing sounds pretty good about now.
So there was definitely some sheltering, as we can takeaway from the Zone Starts, and generally everything else looks pretty average, which isn’t too shabby for a guy who played with Roman Polak more than any other player, or was accompanied by another young defenseman in Zaitsev.
The fact that Borgman did well with Rielly, Rosen, and Hainsey is also pretty interesting and well I’m not sure I’m counting on Borgman playing with Rielly next season, a Borgman/Hainsey pairing seems like Mike Babcock bottom pairing comfort food. Or an all young Swede pairing of Rosen and Borgman also seems like something that would be easy to get behind.
Finally, let’s look at those AHL numbers, because they do exist…
I’m not sure there is an exciting new story to takeaway from the AHL numbers, but Borgman was being utilized like a top pairing defender, and he generally had production to match that. Good for him. He’s apparently done a lot of things right, and with the injury behind him we can seriously talk about how he fits into the Leafs future.
Best Case Scenario for Borgman
That would probably be Borgman showing up and having another strong camp for the Leafs, this time proving that the Righty/Lefty thing has little merit compared to what he brings. He earns a spot in the top 4 with Rielly-Dermott and Gardiner-Borgman as the pairings, and he bi-passes all the competition for the 6th/7th D roles.
That’s probably not going to happen, as Babcock is probably only willing to make the righty/lefty compromise on one of his minute eating pairings. In that event, the best case scenario for Borgman is that he outright wins the job as the left defenseman on the bottom pairing and he’s back to where he was last season. Maybe this time with an opportunity to play in some more critical situations as well.
And the Worst Case Scenario?
The logjam of Carrick, Marincin, Rosen, Hainsey, Holl, and Ozhiganov takes its toll. Or Liljegren did enough over the summer to become NHL ready. Or Jordan Subban has channeled P.K. In any case, with Carrick, Marincin, Hainsey, and Holl all requiring waivers to return to the Marlies, and Borgman being able to take the demotion, it seems like the worst case scenario of being sent to the Marlies is very likely to happen. The upside is that he’s one of the players who can come and go as he pleases between the AHL and NHL, so as long as he has that we might avoid the true worst case scenario for Leafs fans, and that is that Borgman wants to return to Sweden if he doesn’t make the Leafs.
Probably not. Borgman seems like he does have some potential to sneak into the top 4 of the Leafs D, and that’s pretty darn good though. Perhaps the best thing for Borgman is that another team does a deep dive into him and is willing to pry him away from the Leafs to unmask what the true potential here is. There are some bad teams out there where Borgman could very easily slot in to a top four role now.
What’s Likely to Happen?
We’re probably looking at half of the Marlies top pairing right here. I kinda hope he’s paired with Timothy Liljegren, who saw his partner promoted to the Leafs last season, and could use a fellow Swede to give him a leg up. With the fact that Borgman is waiver exempt, I wouldn’t doubt that he will be the first recall for the Leafs when any blueline injuries come up, and that’s not a bad situation for a young defender looking to make his name in the NHL in the next few seasons.
It’s a contract year for Borgman, who has one year left on his entry level deal at $925k, and it’s safe to say his next deal, will need to be a 1-way contract. He’ll be ineligible for arbitration, and will still be a restricted free agent, so he’ll either have to be happy with what the Leafs do for him or we could see him return to Sweden.
At this point I’m willing to believe that Borgman is going to give the Leafs some time, and another year with the Marlies isn’t going to put him off too much, although he seems to be an easy fit for the NHL as well. It will all come down to how the Leafs want to address the clogged 4-7 spots on the Leafs, and the equally competitive 1-7 spots on the Marlies.