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Toronto Marlies: what we lost with the season cancelled

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It’s an unfortunate lost opportunity to see more of what the Leafs have on their prospect shelf.

Christian Bonin/TSGphoto.com

zThe American Hockey League formally cancelled the remainder of their 2019-20 season on Monday. We knew this was coming for some time, and the ‘pause’ was only a bridge to the formality of an official announcement that would follow the lead of the ECHL, and the Canadian CHL junior hockey leagues officially ending their seasons without playoffs.

This means hockey is over for the summer break for most Toronto Marlies. There’s word the NHL’s plans will allow for an expanded team roster, perhaps up to 30 players (unconfirmed), which may mean a handful of the Marlies with NHL contracts can be called up to the Leafs to play as needed in case of injuries, or as wanted by Sheldon Keefe, but, it’s still not expected that any of those Marlies will be a regular feature in whatever the NHL creates to salvage the season and playoffs.

So, the question left regarding the Marlies is what have we lost with the abrupt, early end to their season?

Could they have even made the AHL playoffs? Could they have another run to the Calder Cup? And, some might ask, “who is even on this Marlies team now, anyway?”

Here’s some quick thoughts on these questions.

Could they have made the playoffs and could they have been Cup contenders?

Let’s start with the North Division standings as of the end of play this season. The Marlies had fallen down the rankings after their strong start in the autumn.

AHL rankings have a habit of wild swings; both winning and losing streaks of six or seven games are common for many teams each season. The Marlies themselves had a very bad end to December in the 2017-18 season before quickly turning things around and going on to win the Calder Cup.

But only the top four teams in each AHL division make the playoffs, and, given the ranking slide here and only 15 games left on the schedule, making the playoffs had become a stretch goal for the team.

Marlies who we will and we won’t get to see more of

We already know some of the Marlies on NHL deals have been told to stay ready to play with the Maple Leafs from comments made after the season cancellation announcement yesterday by Laurence Gilman.

A list of players who could join the team has not yet been released; remember that the NHL has still not officially declared they will resume their season, but we know Marlies on AHL contracts, like Rich Clune and Matt Read have seen their last games for now.

However, there are some obvious eligible names who have already played in the NHL like Nic Petan, Pontus Aberg, Timothy Liljegren, Egor Korshkov, Adam Brooks, and a few more. Korshkov is the one I most want to see more of. His versatility and special teams work on the Marlies this season was impressive, but why I want to see more is to understand how his game can translate against NHL-level competition.

The players we likely won’t get to see more of, but which I really want to see more of, is the goalies. Joseph Woll and Kasimir Kaskisuo were alternating starters this season, with Parker Gahagen as a backup to them after Michael Hutchinson was traded to the Colorado Avalanche. The more we see of all of them, the better we can make a judgment about the future of goaltending for the organisation which has a big decision coming next season when Frederik Andersen’s contract expires.

Speaking of goalies, I would also love to see more Ian Scott, but, despite the fact he was spotted hanging out to watch some Marlies games in February, his recovery from surgery was not supposed to have allowed him to return to the ice even if the season resumed and there was a deep playoff run by the team.

Who else could we have seen in a playoff run?

The big names would be Nick Robertson and Semyon Der-Arguchintsev, but, given that the Peterborough Petes were all in on going to the Memorial Cup this year with a stacked roster that also included L.A. Kings star prospect Akil Thomas, it was unlikely their season would have ended in time to allow them to come over for the Marlies playoffs. Perhaps with an expanded roster we might get to see them play for the Leafs, but that’s an outside chance.

We might have seen some more of Jeremy Bracco. He famously took a leave of absence for personal reasons from the team this winter and had only returned to start working out with the team while they went on a road trip and then the season was cancelled. It’s been four seasons since he was drafted and he’s one of the last of the prospects from that draft to either not yet have made it to the NHL, or to be essentially clearly not going to make it. His season ends in a limbo where we don’t really know enough to say what will happen.

I want to see more of Moore

Greg Moore joined the Marlies as the new head coach on December 1, 2019, after Sheldon Keefe was promoted to be head coach of the Maple Leafs.

Moore came over from the Chicago Steel of the USHL only a few months removed from his team winning the USHL championship. The Leafs organisation is seemingly increasingly intertwined with the Steel. Rasmus Sandin was working out with the Steel as an invitee to their training camp two years before he was drafted by the Leafs and one year before he wound up on the Soo Greyhounds. It could all be a coincidence. Or not!

Moore didn’t actually start his first game as the Marlies coach until December 21. We got to see him running the show through March 15 when the the AHL stopped play for the season.

That period had a lot of change for the team, with Leafs GM Kyle Dubas calling up a rotation of players to see what they could do on the Leafs. Some of them stayed up like Sandin, and some, like Mason Marchment and Dmytro Timashov, were traded away. It’s been a tumultuous time of change for the Marlies, and probably not a fair chance for Moore to assert his influence over the team and make it truly one consistently playing his own brand of hockey. We will have to wait until next season to really get to know him and his vision for the team.

Season end thoughts

Well, this is it. Probably, and unexpectedly, the final thing I will write about the Marlies for the 2019-20 season. I doubt anyone is happy or satisfied with this conclusion to the season.

I want to thank the staff of the Marlies for once again being helpful and welcoming to our PPP writers this season, and putting on a great show for all the fans.

We’ll have to wait now and see what 2020-21 has in store, but I’m sure it will be another season full of great stories to write about.

Let’s end this with some great Marlies moments from this season.

Yes, that is the very unlikable Jake Dotchin being useless in front of the net on that shot. LOL!

Here’s Korshkov with some amazing moves to score this goal.

And Poor Matt Read who can’t ever get the puck to work right in warmup.