February 11, 2014
TORONTO– The auditions are over, says Marlies head coach Steve Spott.
The Marlies enter the four-day AHL All-Star break as the top team in the North Division. Through 48 games, however, Spott has used 22 forwards for various reasons and currently there are 16 on his roster that he will have to find a spot for when the AHL season resumes.
“We’ve given guys a lot of opportunity and it’s been great around here with guys given the chances to play, but that will tighten up after the break,” said Spott, who will have his club back on the ice for practice Friday.
Injuries have been the biggest reason so many players have been used up front in the first half of the season, whether it be members of the Marlies who got hurt or the Maple Leafs who needed a replacement brought up.
But every player that was summoned to the Leafs, 11 so far this year, or that went down with an injury was an opportunity for someone else in the eyes of Spott, which is why he won’t feel guilty when he has to make the tough decision of who plays and who sits.
“When this break is over and we get some bodies back I can look everybody in the eye and say you’ve had that opportunity and you let it slip away,” said Spott.
On Sunday the injury-ravished Marlies took on the Hamilton Bulldogs and dropped a 4-3 decision that Spott was not pleased about.
Asked post-game who took advantage of their playing time, the coach mentioned two guys on AHL contracts—Mike Duco and Kory Nagy—and admitted it was a lost opportunity for certain Leaf prospects.
“We’ve got a number of players out of our lineup, we talked before the game it’s an opportunity for players to play bigger minutes and expand their roles and some players let an opportunity go by,” said Spott.
Currently the Marlies have injuries that need to be dealt with over the break. Regulars Sam Carrick, Wade MacLeod, Spencer Abbott and Tyler Biggs are all day-to-day, but expected to be ready to return by Sunday when Toronto hosts the Utica Comets.
The Leafs will also be forced to make decisions when they start getting healthy bodies back in their lineup, and those decisions will affect the Marlies as Trevor Smith, Troy Bodie, Peter Holland and Carter Ashton could all end up back in the AHL.
Heading into the break centre Greg McKegg has been the hottest forward with five goals and 15 points in his last 12 games. Since being acquired from the LA Kings organization, Brandon Kozun has produced three goals and nine points in nine contests with Toronto. And Jerry D’Amigo has four goals and five points in his last five outings.
Kenny Ryan has gone 11 games without a point, Jamie Devane has one goal in his last 22 games and in his last 17 games Brad Ross has scored once.
With all the roster moves at forward, the Marlies can consider themselves fortunate on the back end. Spott found the six defencemen he liked best out of training camp and stuck with them until John-Michael Liles was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes. Since then Kevin Marshall has filled the void and Dylan Yeo has acted as the seventh option. Health has not been a concern.