Leafs Make First Cuts / D’Amigo’s Leadership Leap?

With two preseason games over and done with, the Toronto Maple Leafs have made their first set of cuts. Frederick Gauthier, Ryan Rupert, and Kevin Raine (non-signed invite) were sent to their respective junior teams for another year of development, but in the short term, they’ve also cut eleven other players, who have found their way to the Toronto Marlies roster in anticipation of their training camp. 

Most notable out of the forward cuts is Jerry D’Amigo. When I talked about him for our Top Prospects series, I mentioned that the best course of action for him this year would be to return to the Marlies this year in a more offensive role. It may also be the only course of action available, with so little cap room available to the Leafs, and him carrying an $810,000 base salary with a potential for an extra $212,500 in performance bonuses.

Even with with that considered, though, you would think that he’d get an extended look to see how he could fit in a bottom six role in the event of injuries. But sure enough, after one game, he’s on his way down. The negative way to approach that would be to point at David Broll and Jamie Devane still being up as proof that Randy Carlyle hates everything that doesn’t throw a punch. But as stereotypical as it may be, that’s not the way I see it.

The reality is, with the Marlies also playing in Toronto, any scouting that needs to be done to make a call up can be done by taking a cab five minutes to the west approximately 40 times a season. For players likely to get an AHL assignment, Leafs camps are a statement, one to give a player a taste of what wearing the Leafs uniform is like. It’s there to make them hungrier then they were before. D’Amigo has had prior camps for this purpose, and has never been one to coast along in his development.

On top of this, the Marlies are not just barren in scoring talent this year, they’re also lacking leadership and experience. Last year’s captain Ryan Hamilton is in Edmonton, theoretical successor Mike Zigomanis signed in Rochester, and other A-wearer Korbinian Holzer is still up with the Leafs, probably as they try to figure out the safest time to put him on waivers. This will be D’Amigo’s fourth season with the Marlies, which along with Holzer is the longest tenure anybody has with the team. He’s personable, talkative, and has a stellar work ethic. He’s also been previously coached by Steve Spott while in Kitchener three seasons ago.

So I’m going to throw this out there – the Leafs sent Jerry D’Amigo down in the first wave because he’ll be named the fifth Captain of the Toronto Marlies, along with playing in a more offensive role. They didn’t "write him off" early, they’d just like him to be at "his" camp from the beginning.

Rounding out the cut forwards, we have Sam Carrick, Andrew Crescenzi, Josh Leivo, Greg McKegg, and Brad Ross. McKegg probably jumps up to the top six after limited minutes last season, Ross will be more regularly in the lineup, and Leivo’s role will depend on how he produces in camp. I wasn’t all that impressed by Crescenzi last year, but I imagine three years under Spott will lead to him sticking around, playing a role similar to Will Acton’s last year. Carrick could use some more high-minutes ECHL time, but it all depends on how the lineup looks in the coming weeks.

On the back end, the stand out name in the list of cuts is Petter Granberg. While scouts were very impressed with his play in the Elitseren and in International Tournaments, the Leafs seem to feel that he’s not fully adjusted to NHL-sized ice yet and needs some time in the AHL. There’s no use delaying to a later group of cuts with approximately 18 million defencemen also fighting for the job, so you may as well get him working with his new teammates sooner than later.

Joining him are Dylan Yeo and Zachary Yuen. Yeo is the oldest returning skater of the team, at the ripe old age of 27, and will likely round out a strong group of defencemen. Yuen, a 20 year old drafted by the Winnipeg Jets in the 4th round of 2011, does not have a contract and may not play with the Marlies at all, but gets an opportunity to earn himself a contract in the coming days.

Garret Sparks and Christopher Gibson round out the assignments between the pipes. Sparks most assuredly will back up Drew MacIntyre, who impressed many last night (and in his 30 games with the Marlies last year), but is ultimately competing against two potential NHL starters for a backup role with the Leafs. Gibson, a recent addition to the organization, will no doubt be assigned to the Orlando Solar Bears in the near future.

Toronto Marlies training camp begins tomorrow.

  • It’s not unheard of for goalies to play in the ECHL. Jonathan Quick comes to mind. I don’t think either Chris Gibson or Garret Sparks are NHL stars anytime soon, so it’s not like either deserves an AHL job. Wouldn’t surprise me to see them get Gibson with the Solar Bears so he gets more starts.

    Depends on who they see having the most long-term upside, I’d suspect. Perhaps Jeff knows this better than I do, but AHL teams don’t carry three goalies on the roster, do they?