November 1, 2014
TORONTO — The Marlies are still waiting for someone to step up offensively before the club finds itself moving further down the standings.
Toronto sits dead-least in the AHL with just 10 goals for in seven games — five fewer scored than the next closest team — and in its past four outings the club has just two goals in regulation time.
Connor Brown, Josh Leivo, Trevor Smith, Greg McKegg and Spencer Abbott, who are all expected to produce numbers in top-six roles, are off to slow starts with just one goal apiece while veteran Petri Kontiola is still searching for his first point. Defenceman Viktor Loov leads the team with two goals.
“We’ve experimented a lot so far (with line combos), based on guys having success last year, and different skill sets, and it’s still a work-in-progress,” said Marlies coach Gord Dineen.”
Toronto has struggled to produce 5-on-5 and has been even worse when given a power play.
The Marlies have scored just once on 20 power-play opportunities this season and at times have look confused in the offensive zone. And without a solidified power-play quarterback, scoring isn’t going to get any easier.
“I wouldn’t say we have that one guy, certainly T.J. Brennan had a year (last season) you don’t see from too many defenceman,” said Dineen. “Probably, it is going to be more power play by committee. It’ll be an evolution, not just one unit that will stay together.”
“I don’t think it’s anything drastic. We need better entries, better possession is what we need,” said Abbott about the power-play struggles. “We have a lot of skill and sometimes we try and do too much.”
Last season Brennan was Toronto’s biggest weapon on the top power-play unit and led the club with 12 power-play goals. Stuart Percy, who was used as more of a set-up man than shooter, ran the second unit and kept the group structured.
Currently the closest the Marlies have to a defenceman who can run the point is Loov or rookie Matt Finn. Korbinian Holzer, meanwhile, offers the club a respectable shot from the point, but without Percy there to set him up it hasn’t been shown off yet this season.
“We’re a group that we want our defence being part of the offence, when we do have the puck down in the offensive zone they’re part of the cycle,” said Dineen.
Dineen has trialed a few different line combinations so far to try and find some chemistry. But one thing that hasn’t changed from last season is a four-forward unit — including Abbott on the point — which was very successful.
Up front, Leivo, McKegg and Smith will be expected to start producing — regardless of who’s running the point. Along with Abbott the four forwards combined for 28 power-play goals last season. Other forwards, Sam Carrick and Brown, are also getting looks on the 5-on-4 and they too are being held accountable early in the season.
“We expect a lot of our offence from those guys, but we have other options,” said Dineen. “The other guys probably have to step it up a little bit certainly on special teams. We have to generate more shots throughout our lineup.”
The Marlies have dropped back-to-back outings and currently sit last in the North Division at 3-4-0. They will host the Rochester Americans on Saturday before heading out on an eight-game road trip.