May 8, 2015
TORONTO– Matt Frattin knows his situation in Toronto could have been different if he only stuck to his strengths two seasons ago.
Amidst the Maple Leafs’ collapse in Game 7 against the Bruins in the 2013 NHL playoffs, Frattin had a chance to halt Boston’s comeback and put Toronto up 5-2 with 3:30 to play in regulation.
Alone on a breakaway, the Edmonton native went forehand to back hand on Tuukka Rask and watched the puck slide wide right of the net. The Bruins made it a one-goal game two shifts later and eventually went on to win in overtime 5-4.
“I’m a shooter, I should have shot, but he was out far,” said Frattin. “It’s a hockey play. If I score that do you blame Tuukka Rask? How do you analyze that situation?”
After exiting the post-season, Frattin’s career went on a roller coaster ride for the next 13 months before eventually making his way back to Toronto.
Goaltending took most of the blame for the Leafs’ downfall that season and Frattin was packaged in a deal to the Los Angeles Kings for netminder Jonathan Bernier in June of 2013.
The winger dressed in 40 games with the Kings in 2013-14 and only mustered up two goals and six points before being traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Marian Gaborik at the NHL trade deadline in March of 2014.
Gaborik went on to score 14 playoff goals for the Kings en route to a Stanley Cup while Frattin became roster filler for the Blue Jackets.
“Great opportunity in L.A.,” said Frattin. “Darryl Sutter and Dean Lombardi were awesome to me, they really tried to get things going and it just didn’t work out.”
The same cannot be said, however, about his brief stay in Columbus. Most nights with the Blue Jackets Frattin was a healthy scratch — including the entire first round of the post-season that saw Columbus bow out in six games to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“They were telling me I’m not going to play unless there’s injuries, ‘we kind of had to give up (Marian) Gaborik and we got you in return, that’s the best assets we could get back,'” said Frattin, who was packaged to the Blue Jackets along with two conditional draft picks.
“How do you get confidence from that when you play something like four in 25 games? Sitting around, doing summer workouts and it’s (March), you don’t want to be doing that.”
Frattin was shipped to Toronto in July of that same year. A third trade in such a short amount of time could have been devastating, but he was thrilled when he was told he would be returning to the organization that originally drafted him.
“I would have never expected to come back but I love Toronto, love playing here,” said Frattin.
Unfortunately for Frattin his second stint with the Maple Leafs didn’t get of to the start he wanted and after only six games he found himself back with the American Hockey League’s Toronto Marlies for the first time since the beginning of the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season.
“Average camp, nothing I’m proud of, nothing that turned heads — and that’s what you need to do,” said Frattin about his play at the time. “If you’re going to be average or mediocre you won’t get the playing time you want. Too many guys around the league are coming in and having great camps.”
Frattin wasn’t the same high-scoring winger he showed in his first stint with the Marlies and it took him some time to get re-energized after putting on his fourth jersey in just over a year. But he finished this past season hot and wound up with 26 goals and 48 points in 59 games.
“I’m my best when I’m using my speed, shot and being physical. It was a great reminder this year,” said Frattin.
“He’s a special player at this level and the thing with him is he can turn it up another notch, certainly at our level but, to the point where he’s a special player at the NHL level,” said Marlies coach Gord Dineen.
Dineen believes that if Frattin wants to be with the Leafs as a regular he could take tips from Toronto forward Richard Panik, as the two share similar traits in their game.
“You see that in Richard Panik up there, he’s earned opportunity and fourth-line minutes. He’s pitched in a goal here and there. Maybe that’s where you got to build off of and Fratty has to think that way also.”
Frattin’s success this year with the Marlies was noticed by management and next season a spot on the Leafs should be his to lose as the club continues its rebuilding process. But the now 27-year-old doesn’t put too much emphasis on what he’s accomplished in the AHL and knows he has to make an impact next September if he wants to return to the big club full time.
“I think the biggest thing is in training camp, that’s where you have to earn it,” said Frattin. “Doesn’t really matter what you did the year before. If you have a good training camp and get things rolling, that’s when opportunities arise.”
Frattin, six-foot 200 pounds, plans to spend the next month back in Edmonton before returning to Toronto for off-season training. He has one year remaining on his contract before becoming an unrestricted free-agent. He has played 91 games in a Maple Leafs jersey and 135 total in the NHL.