TORONTO – The Toronto Marlies are champions! Yes, Toronto has a team that got it done on the ice and took home the Calder Cup! Though the celebrations will probably last into this season, it’s time to look into the future. The Marlies are now defending their throne atop the AHL, and it won’t be easy.
With big names moving on and new faces coming in, the challenge to repeat as champions this season will be a tough hill to climb. Moving on from the team will be Garret Sparks, who of course was Goalie of the Year with a league-best 1.79 goals against average and .936 save percentage, and Calvin Pickard, as well as team leaders in Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson, and Travis Dermott. With turnover comes new leaders and new stories. The Marlies’ new faces will look to write a championship one of their own this season. Here’s a look at what the Marlies looking like last season statistically.
Nuts and Bolts:
Division/Conference Finish: 1st in North/1st in
Playoff Finish: Calder Cup Champions!
Record vs. Division: 39-12-2-1
Record vs. Conference: 52-16-2-2
Goals For Per Game: 3.34, 3rd in the AHL
Goals Against Per Game: 2.24, 1st in the AHL
Power Play: 18.0%, 62 goals on 345 attempts, 14th in the AHL
Penalty Kill: 88.9%, 30 goals allowed on 271 attempts, 1st in the AHL
Stats acquired from theahl.com
Who are going to be the goalies for the Marlies this season?
While some decisions may be made early on, the Leafs probably will be trying on all three of their goaltenders this season until they find who who fits. This, of course, could spell trouble for the Marlies as their stability and success in goal was key to their championship run. Who will be in the crease for the Marlies this season? Calvin Pickard? Curtis McElhinney? Kasimir Kaskisuo? This was the question on every Marlies fan’s mind until Tuesday morning, when both Pickard (Philadelphia) and McElhinney (Carolina) were claimed off waivers, leaving Kaskisuo as the de facto starter in Toronto. Kaskisuo had a 2.33 GAA and 0.916 SV% in Chicago last season, and it’s important to note he was left out to dry by the Wolves often until midway through December.
Another spot that is unsettled for the Leafs right now is the blueline.
Of course, this will trickle down the system to the Marlies. The Marlies have developed some decent pieces on the backend which could help the Leafs, and much like the goalie situation, it might not be a quick decision. How will this Marlies team do building chemistry if the blue line keeps shuffling?
How will lost scoring be replaced?
With the likes of Johnsson, Dermott, and Kapanen leaving for the Leafs full-time this season, how will the Marlies replace their scoring? The loss of three players doesn’t seem like it can have that much of an impact, but in this case it will. You are taking away not only point-producers but leaders as well. This Marlies group will need to have guys step up and take over if they have hope of climbing out of the top-heavy Eastern Conference to have a chance at repeating.
With an impressive Leafs camp, Calle Rosen will be worth watching this season for sure. Rosen is looking to build off of a great playoffs last season where he had 11 points in 16 games. Not only do the points look good, but he was just straight up impressive in his play without the puck as well. With big minutes available, there is no way Rosen doesn’t take advantage and prove he is legit.
Next is Pierre Engvall, a guy who kind of shocked some people with how good he is, and how big he looks on the ice. Engvall had 8 points in 9 games after joining the Marlies and looked okay in the playoffs with 8 points in 20 games. With some big forwards moving on, Engvall will look to cement his place in the lineup and play a larger role than most thought him ever capable of.
Last but not least is Jeremy Bracco. Oh boy, does this guy have some flare to his game. Bracco had a really good training camp with the Leafs this year, and he made an impression in some preseason games. The offensive skill Bracco possesses is jaw-dropping. After being a healthy scratch at points for the Marlies, Bracco will look to shake that off and become an offensive threat this season.
Gone But Not Forgotten:
With changes being made at the parent club-level by former Marlies general manager Kyle Dubas, there are some Marlies players who finally get their shot. Kasperi Kapanen is taking his shot, and making the most of it. Kapanen was a leader and point-getter for the Marlies team as they made their Calder Cup run, and will be missed for sure. Of course he would make this team even more dangerous as he was almost a point-per-game last season, but his time in the AHL is over, and he is poised to make an impact on the Leafs this season.
Andreas Johnsson was the MVP of the playoffs, and a champion with the fans. Johnsson will be missed by Marlies faithful as he will be making his way to the big squad this season. Johnsson played the biggest role in getting the Marlies their Calder Cup after the Leafs were eliminated, posting 10 goals and 14 assists in just 16 playoff games. Style, class, and points is what Johnsson is taking with him to the big stage, and the Marlies will miss him.
Garret Sparks’ time has finally come. The 25-year-old will make the jump to the parent club and start with the Leafs this season as a backup. Sparks was the biggest reason why the Marlies were such a great team on the defensive side. He made big saves when you needed him. In 43 games played, Sparks had a 1.79 GAA and a .936 save percentage, which are just out of this world numbers that the Marlies will truly miss this season.
Sin Bin Swami Sez:
Defending a title can be hard, and it won’t be easy for the Marlies to reign supreme once again, but with all the bright talent this roster has its hard to envision them not being a team that still scares people. With a blue line looking strong, and a youthful forward group with something to prove, this Marlies team should finish near the top of the North Division. Returning vets and the rookies will need to gain chemistry early, and if they do, the rest of the AHL should look out.
What do you think? Let us know how you think the Toronto Marlies will do.