December 2, 2013
TORONTO-The Marlies have more than enough options to take on leadership responsibility in the room while Trevor Smith is with the Maple Leafs. But that doesn’t mean the club wouldn’t like its captain back for what he offers on the ice.
With Smith and Jerred Smithson currently summoned to the Leafs, and injuries starting to add up with the Marlies, the AHL club is having difficulty finding enough centremen to fill four lines.
On Saturday against the Rochester Americans 21-year-olds Sam Carrick and Andrew Crescenzi were the only natural centres in the lineup, with wingers Tyler Biggs and Kory Nagy making due on the other two lines.
“I think when you look at the options we have down the middle, right now we have some decisions that aren’t as easy as if we had Jerred Smithson or Trevor Smith, our captain,” said Marlies head coach Steve Spott.
Smithson returning would help Spott, but the 34-year-old doesn’t offer the Marlies the same offensive production Smith can bring.
In just seven games with the Marlies Smith has registered four goals and 12 points, which ties him for second amongst Marlies forwards with Josh Leivo regardless of being off the roster since Nov. 15 and playing 10 fewer games than the rookie.
A top-six forward in the AHL, Smith was the Marlies best centre to start the season and Spott didn’t hesitate to recommend the 28-year-old when the Leafs needed a body, despite being named the team captain after four 20-plus goal seasons in the minors.
“That was a reward,” Spott said at the time of Smith’s first call-up in October. “We didn’t want him being the captain and thinking that was an anchor when he played so well.”
When Smith was brought up in November, Greg McKegg started to show potential as the club’s top-line centre. However, he has gone down and isn’t expected back until close to the new year.
“He’s out with an upper-body injury, probably a couple weeks,” said Spott. Thankfully it’s not his head. I’ve been getting emails about a concussion and it isn’t.”
Along with Biggs and Nagy playing out of position against Rochester, Spott used Leivo to take draws on the power play.
“Trust is a big thing for me and I trust him down low in our end,” Spott said about Biggs playing centre. “(And) I played Leivo at centre before in junior and he’s able to handle it.”
Smith has had a major increase in his ice time with the Leafs his second time around. In seven games through November he’s averaged over 12 minutes of ice time a game while his October call-up he averaged under five minutes a game in six contests.
While the Marlies could use the services of their captain, Smith being returned has no timeline. The Leafs have six healthy centres on their roster and could choose to demote Smithson or Peter Holland rather than Smith when it’s time to make a move. Smith must also clear waivers to return to the Marlies.