The problem with 6'0, 195lb Frank Corrado, as Fiddy MC has pointed out, is that he was picked up on waivers last season and therefore was unable to be sent down to the Marlies. There were rumors about his condition. After ten weeks of being a scratch (healthy?) and 28 missed games at the beginning of the season, speculations ran rampant that maybe he was being slyly rehabilitated from an injury sustained while on the roster of the Utica Comets.
But was he actually rehabilitating during this stretch as a "healthy" scratch? Only Lou knows for sure, but another article from Fiddy speculates that maybe he was. I hunted down the threads of this rumor to a piece written a year ago by Thomas Drance for Canucks Army, mostly about how Corrado’s solid play would have been excellent trade bait. (Thankfully Jim Benning is the Canucks’ GM, and nobody had to trade a thing for him.) Drance mentions Corrado’s injury in a line about his role with the Utica Comets:
It's not that Corrado's playoff performance has been great necessarily, the transitional defensive defender doesn't have a point in 12 games and has battled injury. He struggled on Sunday night in particular, making a couple of unforced giveaways including a brutal touch that led to the Griffins' first goal.
When Corrado got to the Leafs, he spent some time "Cowening," or quietly watching the team from afar in the press box with nope, no injury at all, we promise. What's the point of bringing up his physical state? I bring it up because I'm not sure if we have seen Corrado play at his full ability in Toronto.
After spending time playing for Utica during the playoffs, why was Corrado then waived by the Canucks in the off-season? According to Katya, he fell victim to a butterfly coughing on Mars, or the fact that the Canucks had several right-handed defensemen stacked up at various levels of the organization. He was ultimately unable to stick around in the organization, Katya wrote, because:
While [Petter] Granberg was hurt, the Canucks were confused and overburdened with players who weren't waiver exempt that they needed to cut to meet the roster size restrictions at the start of the season.
They wanted [Ben] Hutton on the team.
They decided Corrado was surplus to their immediate needs, and they couldn't find enough roster spots to keep him in the press box. Rather than do something clever with IR they rolled the dice and put him on waivers so they could assign him to the AHL.
You know what happened next.
This season, Corrado indicated that he wants to play the waiver gamble again. Instead of signing a slightly higher two-way deal, he signed a 600k one-way deal just before it would have headed to arbitration. This is a fair bet for Frankie, because it’s possible the Canucks will have waiver remorse and pick him up for a necessary stint in the NHL if Toronto decides to send him down. (The necessity of using a player in the NHL after picking him up on waivers is picked apart in this very good article by Fiddy.)
A fifth-round selection of the Vancouver Canucks in 2011, Corrado ended up playing 39 games with the Leafs last season, scoring 1G/5A in these games, with extremely sheltered minutes. I’ll discuss that in a bit.
Corrado has indicated that he’s ready to play hard in training camp, and has put in energy and time during the summer to prepare for it: ""I’ve put some hard work in this summer to get ready for the upcoming season," he said to the York Region paper.
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Corrado's career seems to be one of constant potential. The hashtag #FreeCorrado cropped up in November, during his 28-game stretch of being scratched, because after acquiring a shiny new RHD, Leafs fans wanted to see how Babcock would use him. The results were interesting (discussed below), but the main point is that anticipation built, and we apparently valued Corrado all the more for waiting.
The point spread is between Fiddy's 10 and Birky's 19, with most of us settling on mid-range numbers that seem to be based on anticipation, hope, and potential. And yes, of course, some stats. (Below.)
What is the Leafs organization doing with Corrado, anyway?
Last season, they were giving him tough love. Corrado went to the Marlies on a conditioning stint (further evidence that his body was still recovering from injury last season, perhaps), and while he was sitting around, Babcock had snarky words for the National Post about how Corrado needed to earn Babcock's trust and ice time:
Obviously, it hasn’t been easy for him but when we talk about how hard it is, it sounds like he’s not in the NHL every day and not getting paid and not flying on the nice team plane. I have a hard time feeling sorry for guys playing in the National Hockey League myself. Do you have a better lot in life if you are playing 20 minutes a night? Absolutely. But if you work hard and compete hard and do good things, even the coaches catch on.
But when Corrado finally played, everybody squinted their eyes and noticed that he was being given some cushy, sheltered offensive-zone minutes. These sheltered minutes gave him confidence, and resulted in his one and only goal for the season, in a tire fire of a high-scoring game against the Anaheim Ducks. In the gentle words of Adam Proteau:
Blueliner Frank Corrado is still adjusting to life as a full-time NHLer, but in one second-period shift against the Ducks, he made a memorable impact in multiple ways. After rocking Anaheim D-man Cam Fowler with a massive bodycheck, Corrado capitalized on a Toronto rush and scored his first goal as a Leaf – and only his third career NHL goal in 58 games – at the 16:59 mark.
Tim Chiasson of Editor-in-Leaf broke down Corrado's season in a piece that speculated about Babcock's rationale in sheltering Corrado. Does Babcock lack trust, or is he trying to build confidence? According to Chiasson, "Corrado is enjoying the highest offensive zone start percentage for any defender with as many games or more" but despite this, has "utilized that extremely positive deployment, though, coming in at 2.22% CF%rel – which places him third on the team for defenders who have played more than 10 games."
Corrado was given comfortable zone starts and made the most of them, and as he develops, will perhaps be given more trust and harder starts. Chiasson's article has an embedded WARRIOR chart that notes a comparison with Shane Gostisbehere in shot suppression and goal generation, projecting to a top-four D in both areas.
I asked noted Babcock expert and Winging It In Motown editor JJfromKansas about whether Babcock had a grudge against Corrado specifically, or whether he shelters all his young D-men in this way.
"In Detroit, he sheltered the hell out of the third pair," JJ said. "Jakub Kindl, Brendan Smith... heck going all the way back to Brett Lebda. Babcock puts the third pair in a position to succeed more than any other group. Sheltered starts against weaker competition."
It is a sign of good things that Corrado is earning this time on the ice to learn.
Words from a Sad Canucks Writer
Kent Basky of Nucks Misconduct was kind enough to write us a retrospective on Corrado's short career as a depth piece for his team.
Perhaps it's just the way the fan adjusts to how the team has tumbled from being the best in the NHL for almost 3 years? Perhaps it's a reflex mechanism that kicks in, and there's a reaction to any move made by the team, that it's got to be awful for the team? Whatever the case may be, Frankie Corrado's short stint in the Canucks organization had grown to a mythological status. I half expect to find tweets about "Where were you when you found out Frankie got traded?" Yeah, it's that bad.
Frankie Corrado was not the savior, nor was he a dud. He was a depth piece, and it's that reason, and that reason alone why it was disappointing that the Canucks let him go. At a time when the Canucks' defensive depth was being exposed on a nightly basis, a solid, stay-at-home defenceman is sent out to the farm team, knowing he could be snapped up by any team in search of just such a player, and as we know, the Leafs did just that.
Let's face it: Corrado hasn't lit the world on fire in Toronto, but that's the problem I have with what the Canucks did: their seemingly impatient way of dealing with Corrado's development. It's a fact of life that for the most part, Dmen take longer to develop, and Corrado is no exception. The Canucks seemed to be doing things the right way at the start: sending him back to the OHL, and allowing him to learn the nuances of the pro game in Utica.
Corrado was beginning to show signs that as a 5th round pick, he would defy the odds and prove to be a useful mid-pairing defenceman. And yet Corrado couldn't seem to displace the likes of Ryan Stanton for one of those bottom-pairing spots, leading the Canucks to the situation they've found themselves in a number of times in the Jim Benning regime: An asset gone with a poor return, or none at all.
The Canucks D situation is improving, with the emergence of Chris Tanev, getting Olli Juolevi in this year's draft, and the potential of Russian beast-man Nikita Tryamkin developing into a solid NHL'er, yet Corrado still feels like one that got away. It's not Cam Neely all over again by any stretch, but a disappointing move by the Canucks nonetheless.