The job of the Leafs is to make the Leafs, now and in the future, a better team. The harsh truth is that sometimes that means caring less about the Marlies than we want them to.
The deal today was all about Brian Boyle, and it’s a good one. But looked at from the other side, the AHL side, it’s going to make winning for the Marlies a lot tougher.
Byron Froese, the goal scoring leader in the AHL and the goal and points leader on the Marlies, will be going to the Syracuse Crunch, the top team in the same division the Marlies are in. That’s a hard pill to swallow.
Centre depth was the reason for the trade, centre depth on the Leafs, that is. But the Marlies are struggling most nights to put together their forward lineup, so much so that if the Leafs had needed a call-up for the road trip they are on right now, they’d have had a hard time finding an option. Without Boyle, the choice was Sergey Kalinin or Brooks Laich.
And to be fair, the Leafs did go out and get Kalinin, perhaps as insurance against having to move Froese in a trade. The Marlies aren’t helpless, but they are wounded by this.
Included in this deal is Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond who will report to the Marlies on a loan.
He might help make up the numbers on the Marlies, but he’s not a player in Froese’s class at all. He is another Daniel Maggio, who to his credit, is turning into a serious hockey player. In the ECHL, that is.
The centre depth on the Marlies is now: Colin Smith, Brooks Laich, Sergey Kalinin, Colin Greening, Tony Cameranesi and the injured Marc-André Cliche. If Brett Findlay, usually on the Orlando Solar Bears, is not too injured to play, he joins the mix. He left a recent game after a hit and missed the next game entirely.
If Frederik Gauthier is sent back to the AHL, and he needs to be by March 1 to be eligible for the AHL playoffs, then he joins the list. The Marlies have a lot of 4Cs there, and no one who is qualified to take the top line job. None of those players come close to approaching Froese in points. It will be up to the wingers to step up and cover for whoever gets the regular one and two spot.
Froese was also a key component on the power play, and the Marlies get a very large percentage of their points on the man advantage. With him gone, they will need someone else to move to the top unit and take up the slack.
For Leafs fans, the loss of a player they may see as a failed fourth liner is nothing. For the Marlies, who are trying to build that culture of winning and have clawed their way into a playoff spot on the strength of their recent play, the task just got a lot harder.
Goodbye, Byron Froese, we’ll miss you. So will the scoresheet.