Looking for a way to shake things up after a pair of, lets be blunt, bad games against a pair of New York teams, the Toronto Maple Leafs have swapped around some of their youth, calling up winger Carter Ashton from the Toronto Marlies, and sending Peter Holland in his place.
Opinions are mixed regarding this decision (aren’t they always?), and it’s safe to argue in either direction. Here’s a bit of reasoning for both sides of the coin.
Why it’s Bad
On Ashton’s side of things, it doesn’t appear that the Leafs have used him particularly well in this time with them. Relegated to fourth line minutes and a checking role (where he even seems pressured to fight, with two scraps this season), he has only produced one point in 33 NHL games. There seems to be potential for a much better offensive player, but how helpful is that potential if he isn’t allowed to use it?
The same theory goes for Holland. The actual assignment isn’t his con; it’s the fact he’s been placed in a situation where the team feels it to be a good idea. Yes, Tyler Bozak and Nazem Kadri have earned higher spots in the depth chart than him. But before Bozak’s return, Holland was one of the best points/60 forwards on the roster. Even with four games of playing on the fourth line for less than 10 minutes per game, his 2.05 points per game, while unlikely to last, was well above average. Would there have been harm in continuing to give him some offensive minutes until he began to taper off?
Why It’s Good
On the other hand, Ashton deserves to be rewarded for stellar play. His 10 goals and 5 assists in 14 games, while helped by an abnormally high shooting percentage, are his best AHL totals to date. The "eyeball test" has him finding himself in much better positions to score than he has in previous years, and using his teammates better. While unlikely, maybe the Leafs actually give him an opportunity to showcase this ability while he’s up. At the very least, he gets a pay boost, and is a better option than the enforcers.
As for Holland, if you aren’t going to use him, you may as well let him dominate. While Greg McKegg has been solid, the Marlies definitely lack a top end centre right now. Putting him with Josh Leivo and Spencer Abbott could give the team a bonafide first line for the first extended period of time this year, and help with all of their development paths. As well, Holland is three NHL games played from triggering a condition in the trade that sent him here, bumping the third round draft pick given up to a second round pick. Granted, a move should have happened four games ago if one was to take that into consideration, but if he’s going to be buried, it’s best to not pay more for the privilege.
Ashton gets rewarded for his AHL success with a pay spike and a minutes crash. Don’t expect a ton. Peter Holland gets punished for injury returns by being sent down, but probably benefits from the extra minutes and develops himself along with his linemates. Besides, knowing this team, they’ll be down a centre in about six hours anyway.