And then there was one….
After an epic Road Trip, your Toronto Marlies have just one game left to play versus the Rochester ‘Muricans (Wednesday, November 18th 7pm) before heading back to the Ricoh Coliseum.
Each year, since 1922, the Ricoh has hosted the Royal Winter Agricultural Fair and with that means the Toronto Marlies endure a 3 week sightseeing trip around the wonderful North Eastern part of the USA and Eastern Canada. During this trip the Marlies will have covered 8,479 kms by planes, trains and automobiles.
While the general focus of Leafs Nation has be on the improved play of the Maple Leafs, quietly the Toronto Marlies are leading the North Division in the AHL with a record of 11-3-1.
It goes without saying that William Nylander is the supercharged engine leading this Marlies team. Nylander is 2nd in the AHL in scoring with 8 goals and 11 assists for 19 points in the 14 games that he has played thus far in the 2015-16 AHL season.
“Depth”. This should be the word used when describing the Marlies team. The ability to roll four complete lines that can each score at any time is a huge benefit to the Sheldon Keefe squad. Josh Leivo (now elevated to the Top line with Nylander) continues to impress the Marlies Staff with his improved play. Almost an afterthought on the minds of many Leafs fans, Leivo is second on the team in scoring and is utilizing that NHL ready shot of his on a more regular basis. TJ Brennan and Mark Arcobello (since being returned to the AHL from the Leafs) are also showing how effective they can be when called upon. The aforementioned players excel in the AHL but just cannot put it together at the NHL level. I would think that Arcobello gets another shot with the Leafs before too long (10 pts in 6 games) if he continues this torrid pace.
The list of players that stand out on a nightly basis is growing, but I would be remiss if I didnt spend some time tallking about Garret Sparks. Since Antoine Bibeau was called up to the NHL roster to replace injured Jonathan Bernier, the former ECHL goalie has been standing on his head in the nets for the Marlies. Sparks is now posting a 6-2-0-1 record with an excellent .929 save percentage and a 2.23 Goals Against Average. Leafs management had a solid idea in what they had with Sparks and Bibeau when they traded away Chris Gibson this summer to the Islanders but I am not sure they had an idea he could be this good. Big framed and athletic, Sparks continues to impress Leafs Coaching Staff on a nightly basis. Most recently, Sparks entered a game where the score was 8-4 and backstopped the team to a 9-8 win. While he wasn’t overly busy in the second part of that game, he has instilled confidence in the team that is in front of his crease. Garret Sparks is a player that will garner a lot of attention throughout the rest of this season to watch his progression.
Finally, I would like to thank the Toronto Marlies Hockey Club and its players for vacating the Ricoh, in order for my little three year old filly to compete in the Royal Winter Fair and to poop on the arena floor. Our ‘money pit’ managed to finish 4th out of 21 horses during her event, but in my opinion we got robbed by some poor officiating, and I swear the guy looked exactly like Kerry Fraser!! There is always next season.
Marlies update time is over and I cannot wait to welcome the Team back to the Ricoh on Saturday November 21st (5pm puck drop). In an aside, several members of the Leafs Hub family will be in attendance for The Winter Summit. CanuckintheUK has generously spearheaded this event, starting it off with a group of eight people attending. Some of our leaders like site owner, Jude MacDonald, staff writer Peter Barrachini and site guru Steve Kopac (Disgruntled Hopeful) will also be in attendance (as well as yours truly). If you get the chance come on down to the Ricoh and spend some time with this group of beauties.
In Shanahan We Trust…….