The Marlies broke with tradition and played two different teams for last weekend’s games. They further broke with tradition by losing both of those home games, the last games played before Greg Moore took over as the new Head Coach of the team.

Greg Moore: Kyle Dubas’s big gamble

Moore steps in to some big shoes left by Sheldon Keefe who was coach for over four seasons; bringing the Marlies a Calder Cup — the AHL Championship, but perhaps more notably being the one directing the development of a long list of Maple Leafs prospects who have since made it on to the Leafs roster including Trevor Moore, Frederik Gauthier, Travis Dermott, Andreas Johnsson, and Kasperi Kapanen among several others, some just now getting their first look by the big club like Adam Brooks.

Moore takes over the dual mandates that have been a defining responsibility of the Marlies head coach: developing players and building a winning team. We’ve discussed before how that’s not always easy, especially without a stable full of prospects likely to become NHL players.

Development is not only a general principle, but sometimes targeted, like for Egor Korshkov and his penalty-kill skill. Winning games is related and impacted by that in some ways, but perhaps the most important side of the ‘winning team’ mandate is making it to the AHL playoffs, where the workload and expectations rise significantly and players face the most stress of the season.

Recent Games

Speaking of winning, that’s something the Marlies have not done lately. The last three games were all losses including the first two “home games” at the Coliseum. That’s in quotes because they did lose a home game several weeks ago but it was played at the Scotiabank Arena. You can decide for yourself whether or not that counts. In either case, last weekend was a wake-up call.

After dropping a game 6-4 to the Comets on Wednesday in Utica, the Marlies lost 4-1 on Saturday against the Senators, and 4-2 on Sunday against the IceHogs.

Both games had a different feel, and in neither did the Marlies look “bad” per se, but more like they were not engaged and lacking any sense of urgency.

The Senators practically gifted the whole third period of Saturday’s game to the Marlies by taking six penalties. Look at this penalty list for the period and then be amazed the Marlies did not score once through that whole 20 minutes.

Now, some credit is due to the Senators goalie Joey Daccord, a seventh round selection by Ottawa in the 2015 NHL Draft who played in the NCAA at Arizona State for three years. The 23 year-old is one to watch for the future.

Marlies Assistant Coach A. J. MacLean—who was then still running the team in anticipation of Greg Moore taking over—noted it was not acceptable that the power play flopped. “It’s hard to complain to get that many power plays in a row when you’re on the good side of it. You just need to make sure you’re ready to execute and make do,” he said; and clearly, they weren’t ready to execute.

The Marlies lost again Sunday, again with no power play goals despite some opportunities. The IceHogs don’t come up to Toronto very often, so it’s difficult to judge a result against a team they play so rarely, but it still stings to lose that game and finish a weekend with zero points.

There were some positives for the weekend. Adam Brooks picked up the pace of his scoring over the past month and it continued with this goal on Sunday which may have factored in to his call up to the Maple Leafs

And we all love a Rich Clune goal.

After the game Clune said “I put my head down and try and put my shoulder through the other team’s chests. That’s it. That’s my only game plan.”

We love you Dickey.

Roster News

The Marlies roster was flipped over significantly after the end of the weekend. While Pontus Aberg was returned to the Marlies by the Maple Leafs, several players have been attached to a yo-yo and moved up and down from both the Maple Leafs and the Growlers.

Maple Leafs move Pontus Aberg and Martin Marincin to the Marlies
Maple Leafs call up Timothy Liljegren and Martin Marincin
Maple Leafs yo-yo Brooks and Marincin down and then up to the NHL

So who exactly will show up as playing in the Marlies next game on Saturday is a mystery that we may have to wait to have solved until a few minutes before the start of the game.

ECHL rules state that some players with an AHL contract are required to play in at least five AHL games to be allowed to participate in the ECHL playoffs. The Growlers are on a long Christmas break and will not play again until Monday December 30, so there is an opportunity for some ECHL players to bank AHL games-played with the Marlies on December 21, 26, 27, and 28. Whether they will play is, of course, not confirmed.

One thing we do know is that Rasmus Sandin will not be around for these games.

Rasmus Sandin loaned to Team Sweden for the WJC

Sandin’s departure leaves a hole on the Marlies defence that will be difficult to fill. He’s a true top talent defenceman that I can’t wait to see on the Leafs.

News has also finally filtered out about what happened to goalie prospect Ian Scott and you can read more about that below.

Hip surgery will sideline Ian Scott for at least 6 months

Kalle Kossila is the last one still stuck in a warp bubble. Hopefully he knows to jump through the vortex before the Universe he created with his mind collapses.

Egor Korshkov remains out with an undisclosed injury and there are no updates.

Next Game and Standings

The Marlies play the Senators on Saturday in Belleville. After a break for Christmas they play the Senators again for the traditional Boxing Day game at Scotiabank Arena.

The Marlies have dropped to second place in the division standings. The two upcoming games against Belleville could impact that further, but the key games will be against the Laval Rocket on the 27th and 28th. Winning all these division games will put the Marlies in a great position before they head out to Texas in January when the Coliseum is turned over to the Toronto International Boat Show.