Monday was a spectacular day for the Toronto Marlies.
The Maple Leafs made their final cuts and sent much of their future, 19-year-old Nazem Kadri
, 22-year-old Luca Caputi and 24-year-old Christian Hanson to the American League team.
As expected, the Leafs also demoted goalie Jussi Rynnas
The Leafs roster is now set for Thursday’s season opener against the Montreal Canadiens.
In considering the three young forwards, Leafs General Manager Brian Burke measured what to do with two players who could legitimately argue about their demotion and a third, Kadri, who clearly could not.
Caputi and Hanson had strong camps but in the end Fredrik Sjostrom, who missed most of camp with an injury, and John Mitchell were deemed more worthy of sticking.
“There is a body of work concept we employ too. I don’t think Mitchie’s played as well as he can or should have,” Burke said.
“Critics can say this guy outplayed him or that guy outplayed him,” Burke said. “He got a call from the governor, he got a reprieve. Sometimes if you’re the new guy you have to be better than the incumbent.”
Kadri, said Burke, is clearly not ready. At 19, there is little reason the seventh overall choice in 2009 should be ready to step on to one of the Leafs top two lines.
“I think Nazem’s accepted that he’s made his own bed,” Burke said. “I think he’s been very mature about it. If I could go back to the draft and you gave me the microphone again, I would take Nazem Kadri
again. We believe in Nazem as a hockey player and a person. He’s not ready for the top six yet.”
The announcement brought only mild surprise. Mitchell’s job was the only one in any real jeopardy. The biggest shock was the play of centre Tim Brent, who played his way on to the Leafs third line.
“Tim Brent is not the most gifted hockey player in the world,” Burke said. “He is a tenacious guy with a real high hockey IQ who figures out where to fill space, where to put a body on somebody, where to win a key draw. His positional play is exceptional.”
The Leafs also waived on Michael Zigomanis
, Jay Rosehill
and Danny Richmond.
With Brett Lebda soon to return from an upper body injury, the Marlies express could include one more player, defenceman Jeff Finger
The most striking difference between this year’s team and last year’s is in goal, Burke said. Last year, the Maple Leafs were dependent on Vesa Toskala who was coming off hip surgery. Toskala is out of the league this year and the club has turned to Stanley Cup winner Jean-Sebastien Giguerre and sophomore Jonas Gustavsson
Still, there are more changes. Dion Phaneuf
will wear the C Thursday for the first time in a regular season game. Many of the players who helped engineer the Leafs late season improvement are now back for a full season including Sjostrom, Giguere and Phil Kessel
. Both grit and scoring prowess were addressed with the addition of Kris Versteeg and Colby Armstrong
The first line features Tyler Bozak
with Kessel and Versteeg. The second unit has Mikhail Grabovski
centering Clarke MacArthur
and Nikolai Kulemin
That leaves Brent with Colby Armstrong
and Sjostrom. Colton Orr, Mitchell and Mike Brown
will make up the fourth unit.
The defensive corps will feature Phaneuf, Luke Schenn
, Mike Komisarek
, Tomas Kaberle, Francois Beauchemin and Jeff Finger