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Now that he's a Maple Leaf: Will the real Colin Greening please stand up

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I take a look at one of the forgotten men in the Phaneuf trade, and try to figure out what kind of player he really is.

Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

The most important part of the Dion Phaneuf trade will be realized in the future. The biggest contract on the Leafs is gone, and decent prospect Tobias Lindberg is playing in the AHL, and he may be in the NHL one day. There's a 2017 pick in there too, to bear future fruit, but there were parts of the trade that are for right now. I'm going to look at one of the forgotten three guys who came back in the deal.

Colin Greening is 29 years-old, was drafted in the seventh round by the Ottawa Senators in 2005. He becomes a UFA in the summer of 2017.

Colin Greening as a Leaf

The consensus wisdom on the day of the trade seemed to be that Greening was going to go straight to the Toronto Marlies from Binghamton. The consensus wisdom was wrong. He went straight out to Calgary, not quite in time for the game against the Flames, but in practice was used with Daniel Winnik and Nick Spaling as third line wing.

Tyler Bozak, out with what seems likely to be a concussion, was replaced with Mark Arcobello who had Peter Holland and P.-A. Parenteau as wingers. They were absurdly dominating at 5-on-5, surpassed only by Nazem Kadri's line who can't actually tell you who was in net for the Leafs, because they never saw him. The Flames, to put it mildly, were not very good at the shot differential game.

Greening vs. the Oilers

The Leafs road show moved on to Edmonton, and Greening came in, not as more grit on the grind line, but to replace Peter Holland, who moved up to try to replace a lightly injured Kadri. That went not so good, but Greening with Arcobello and Parenteau was a different story.

They were the only top line that maintained a positive shot differential through the third period when the Oilers started to play better and the demoralizing effect of the McDavid-Eberle goalfest had taken hold. While they were excellent for the whole game, in the third, Arcobello and Greening had a Corsi +/- of 8 (score adjusted) to lead the team, while the other top forwards save Parenteau were around or below 0.

Shot differentials against Connor McDavid in particular are telling: Holland 0-4 in 2:33, Spaling 2-8 in 5:04, Froese 0-4 in 1:35, and Arcobello 5-2 in 3:08. Greening was right there with his centre (4-2 in 2:50), digging the puck out in the corners, keeping it in the offensive zone and off McDavid's stick better than anyone else.

But that's the Oilers. Their even strength, score adjusted shots against per 60 minutes (CA60) is fifth worst in the league. Calgary is second worst, so let's bear that in mind when looking at these games.

Greening vs. the Canucks

Onward to Vancouver, a team that is in the same middling to bad range of shots against that Toronto inhabits. Vancouver can't generate any shots for to speak of, however. The Leafs outshot the Canucks by a huge margin, and the high-danger scoring chance differential was 10-2! It was an epic mismatch, a blowout, a total domination.

Greening played with Arcobello and Parenteau again, and they were the only line that finished the game below 50% in shot differential. So what were they doing when Arco wasn't busy scoring two goals in 16 seconds?

They did not see the Sedins at all, and they dominated the line of Bo Horvat, Sven Baertschi and Jake Virtanen. But they got snowed in hard by Linden Vey, Emerson Etem, Alex Burrows and Derek Dorsett—Vancouver's oversupply of grinders, in other words.

Alex Burrows, in fact, had his way with everyone except Byron Froese and his line of Rich Clune and Brendan Leipsic. (One of these things is not like the other...but that's a story for another day!)

So while my eye-test said Greening is excellent at playing the body, winning board battles and being the muscle that I think Mark Arcobello needs on wing, he also keeps up in the play and shoots the puck, passes, gets in tight to the net, and plays like he knows what's what all over the ice.

And that's his rep, only it's usually spun a very different way.

Colin Greening as a Senator

Back in the day Colin Greening was the top line wing in Ottawa. In 2011-12, the Senators forwards ice time at 5-on-5 went: Spezza, Michalek, Alfredsson, Turris, Greening. Greening spent most of his time with Spezza and Michalek, and he had 29 primary points (everything but the secondary assists).

The next year, with Spezza missing most of the year, Greening fell down the depth chart to eighth in ice time, but still put up decent enough points for the Senators to give him a contract extension in training camp in 2013 that sees him paid an AAV of $2,650,000 through to 2016-17.

In 2013-14, he dropped more, despite the contract, and played most of the year with Zack Smith and Chris Neil as the third line. Oddly enough, with those stalwarts by his side, he didn't score much.

He fell completely out of favour, got sent to Binghamton on and off in 2014-15, and eventually was left there where the Senators could regret his contract from a distance. He hasn't done anything of note in the AHL, and he played one game for the Sens this year.

The Senators believed that his play with Spezza was the "real him" and they piled up their hopes on him despite any contrary evidence, and when he couldn't carry that, when he dropped it and smashed it all to pieces, they piled up their shame on him instead and banished him. That's how it works.

Who is he?

If this all sounds a bit like P.-A. Parenteau, well, I think it's delightfully ironic that they are playing together right now. Greening isn't the man who looked so good with Spezza, we know that, but is he the man who barely contributed in Binghamton? Or is he, like Parenteau, a guy who can use some of the Babcock combination of clean on-ice system and tough love to find his true level?

Two games against bad teams aren't the way to tell for sure, but a night in Chicago might provide some clues. I'm looking forward to finding out who he is. And then?

Two weeks is a pretty short time to impress enough to get dealt at this deadline, but if he's next year's Parenteau, if he plays a year of good enough hockey as a Leaf to get dealt, no one should complain. But two-week streaks do happen, so who knows.

Watch and find out.

Credits

War on Ice for the current game usage and stats.

General Fanager for the contract numbers.

Elite Prospects for the historical box scores and vital statistics.

And last and most important: HockeyViz for the historical usage, line makeup, ice time, and current Leafs lines and usage. There is nowhere else that you can get this sort of overview of player usage, now and in the past, all in one place.