The Toronto Marlies waited until game #72, the last game on the schedule for their regular season to clinch a playoff spot, and they missed it.
Today’s 5-2 loss to the Belleville Senators left them one single standings point short of a playoff spot. Instead of the Marlies, the Rochester Americans (Buffalo Sabres affiliates) will advance in their place for the North Division.
To say this is a disappointment is an understatement; this is the first time the Marlies have missed going to the playoffs since 2011, but more so because they spent much of this season sitting as high as second place in the division standings. The slide only started this spring, and then accelerated recently, notably including not only today’s loss, but also two others to Belleville this month as the Ottawa Senators affiliates surged up the standings at the last minute.
Questions about goaltending swirl around the team, with Michael Hutchinson in net for most games recently after Joseph Woll was injured. He was backed up by Keith Petruzzelli, called in from from Newfoundland on occasion, and a rotating cast of emergency signings appeared behind him as well. Then for today’s game, Carter Hutton of all people made a surprise appearance as the backup. He was acquired in an odd trade with the Coyotes for “future considerations” in February.
What will happen next season is unclear as both Hutton and Hutchinson are unrestricted free agents who can sign anywhere now—Hutton may formally retire—while Woll was recently given a three year contract extension.
Ian Scott’s long term health status continues to be unclear. The Leafs goalie pipeline includes Artur Akhtyamov, drafted in 2020, but they may also make another run at signing Harri Säteri and then try to get him through waivers again without another team rudely claiming him.
This was Greg Moore’s third season as head coach of the team, though only the first with a full season as both the previous two were shortened and had playoffs cancelled because of the global pandemic. A change there seems unlikely at this point, not only because this is his first real full season, one which was still partially disrupted, but also after the Leafs hired Ryan Hardy to be GM of the Marlies this season. Hardy was Moore’s GM at his previous job as head coach of the Chicago Steel in the USHL.
Thus brings an end to our Marlies game coverage for this season. I personally thank you for reading everything we could manage this year. There were periods it was difficult for me to attend or watch games, as I’m sure it was for everyone, but here’s to next season hopefully, finally, being a fully “normal” one, and stay tuned for the summer as we’ll be talking about many of these Marlies in our annual Top 25 Under 25 Series which will start sometime in July or early August.