Oct. 16th, 2013
TORONTO– Jesse Blacker has found himself watching more than playing to open the AHL season.
The 22-year-old defeceman didn’t crack Toronto’s top-six to start the season and has been a healthy scratch in each of the club’s three games so far. Even with the depth the Marlies have on the back end Blacker was expected to be a contributor, however head coach Steve Spott says the prospect will have to play better to take back a position he held the past two seasons.
“A lot of people think coaches make decisions. Coaches don`t, players do. And our top six right now are doing a good job,” said Spott. “We dressed the six we were comfortable to start (the season) and we stayed with it because of success. It’s not perfect I won’t hide that.”
Spott has used Andrew MacWilliam, Korbinian Holzer, Stuart Percy, Petter Granberg, TJ Brennan and John-Michael Liles this season. Kevin Marshall has also been a scratch for the first three games however, unlike Blacker, he is a left-handed shot and Toronto already has four dressed.
Spott prefers to have pairings of a righty with a lefty through his lineup, but the demotion of Liles gave the first-year coach another lefty option. Ultimately, it was Blacker that lost out while Holzer and Granberg were the chosen right-handed defencemen.
“We like right-left (pairings) as much as possible,” said Spott. “But when you have players like John-Michael Liles here they can play either side and still handle hot rims coming off the boards… In a perfect world we like three rights three lefts.”
With the Marlies being 3-0-0 to open the year, Blacker has spent the first two weeks of the season practicing with the club while they win without him. And the team success doesn’t bode well for his individual opportunities.
“We had success with our top six and now it’s a game where you have to stay patient and professional,” said Spott. He`s disappointed. He`s a professional, he wants to contribute.”.
The Marlies play Rochester on Friday and it’s unclear if Blacker will be in the lineup. So for now he bides his time, working in practice, hoping to get back in.
“He`s going to get a chance, through call up, through injuries, through suspensions,” said Spott “He`ll get his chances and when he does….take advantage of it.”
Blue liner Dylan Yeo hasn’t cracked Toronto’s top-six pairings yet either, however Spott has used him twice on left wing.