The pessimist in you is saying, we’re supposed to get bigger, we’re supposed to get tougher, we need defence, we need another top six left winger. I know. I know. I know. Try and shut down that part of your brain for just one second.
This morning, the Maple Leafs made a trade with the one and only team they seem to be battling with in the standings for a playoff spot. That seems strange. That feels like cause for skepticism right there. Why would Florida make a move to improve the only team they can catch for a top three spot in the Atlantic? It’s long been rumored that Denis Malgin would welcome a change of scenery but it still see seems strange that the Leafs were the ones to strike this deal – sending Mason Marchment the other way – with a Panthers team that is hot on their tail.
Mason Marchment’s appeal to Maple Leafs fans appears to be more of an emotional one than anything. We’ve nurtured him from a kid who was barely good enough to keep a job in junior to a very good player in the American League. What he represented was a lottery ticket. If all the stars aligned, if the hockey gods looked down favorably on us, if everything went just right, he could have been our Tom Wilson, our Ryan Reeves, our Pat Maroon.
In limited action this season Marchment showed he could very well provide some depth at the bottom of the line up, but that his skating isn’t quite at the level it needs to be in order to provide the kind of impact the aforementioned players can provide. There’s nothing wrong with that. It was a long shot for everyone involved, and it didn’t work. That’s not to say there’s no room left for improvement in Marchment’s game, but after five seasons of pro hockey, at 25 years old, the likelihood of success is dwindling more and more by the minute.
Lost in the litany of problems plaguing the Maple Leafs over the last few weeks has been the play of the bottom six, regardless of who’s been there. Frederik Gauthier and Dmytro Timashov have been unable to cement a spot in the line up. Kasperi Kapanen, Alex Kerfoot, and before he was injured, Andreas Johnsson haven’t provided the consistency which was expected from them. Call ups like Nic Petan and Pontus Aberg have fizzled out quickly with barely a spark.
Had Andreas Johnsson been able to stay healthy, after returning from a broken foot earlier in the year, he may have eventually been able to fill the void on the left side, but as it has done most of the year, the injury bug had other plans for the Leafs.
In Denis Malgin, the Leafs have added a strong defensive presence with some offensive upside. He’s been among the leaders in shot differential, shots against and scoring chances against on the Panthers this season. Malgin’s isolated impact charts show that he’s been an average offensive player who does a good job preventing chances in his own zone.
Malgin was a teammate of Auston Matthews with the Zurich SC Lions of the Swiss-A league during the 2015-2016 as an 18 year old. He’s only 23 years old with already 184 career NHL games under his belt and while he hasn’t produced as much offensively as I’m sure he would like, his 28 goals and 32 assists over that time are respectable. He does have decent speed and very good hands, is touted as more of a playmaker than a shooter and even though he’s undersized, he’s still known to battle hard along the boards and in the corners.
While he has experience playing up the middle and could potentially do so for the Leafs, it’s more likely that he’ll slot in on the wing on the fourth line where Dmytro Timashov has spent most of the season. The possibility remains for him to get a chance to play with higher caliber offensive players if the opportunity arises, and maybe even some time on the second power play unit. However, this move is entirely about adding a player who brings some versatility to the forward group and is adept at limiting shots and scoring chances.
It was becoming clear that Mason Marchment wasn’t going to impact this Leafs team in a significant way so moving him for a younger player who can contribute more regularly is a nice piece of business for GM Kyle Dubas. While rumors continue to swirl about the Leafs general manager working the phones, chances are this won’t be the final move the Leafs make before Monday’s deadline.
Isolated Impact chart from hockeyviz.com