By now you know the Toronto Maple Leafs
will miss the playoffs
. Not exactly a newsflash, eh?
With two regular-season games remaining and so much uncertainty regarding the future
of this organization, it's really hard to take these final contests too seriously.
In a pair of matchups featuring non-playoff teams, the Maple Leafs still have Thursday's game against the Panthers and Saturday's game against the Senators in Ottawa to take care of. Some Battle of Ontario!
Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle is deadly serious when it comes to preparing his team to win, even if his players don't always adhere to their coach's instructions, but maybe he can lighten up a bit and reward a few of his players.
Here are a few suggestions, starting with one that Carlyle has already decided to try:
Let Drew MacIntyre start against the Panthers
Thirty-year-old goaltender Drew MacIntyre
has kicked around professional hockey since 2003 and has never made a start in the NHL, but he's getting the nod
Thursday night in Florida.
With nothing on the line, it seems like a no-brainer for the organization to reward MacIntyre's hard work and persistence with a start. The Charlottetowne, P.E.I., native had made five relief appearances in his NHL career (two with Vancouver in 2007-08, two with Buffalo in 2011-12 and one with the Maple Leafs this season) and deserves a start.
MacIntyre was perfect coming in to relieve James Reimer on March 23 in New Jersey when he played 36:04, stopping all 14 shots he faced.Give the kids first-unit PP time
All year long, the Maple Leafs have employed Dion Phaneuf
and Cody Franson
on the point of the team's first-unit power play. For the next two games, Carlyle should play Jake Gardiner
and Morgan Rielly
on the first unit. They are great skaters and both possess creativity.
Phaneuf and Franson both have very good shots from the point, but with eight and five goals, respectively, they will never be mistaken for the likes of Shea Weber, Erik Karlsson, Zdeno Chara or even a youngster like Torey Krug.
Gardiner and Rielly represent a very positive aspect of the Maple Leafs' future. Let the kids run wild Thursday and Saturday.
Get Carter Ashton a goal
The Maple Leafs should start Carter Ashton
at forward and not let him come off the ice until he scores. If that takes the whole game, then so be it.
Ashton, a very hard worker, has 16 goals and 23 assists in 24 games with the AHL Marlies this season. He is one of the most dominant players in the AHL. In the NHL, however, Ashton has played 47 NHL games (32 with Toronto this season) and has yet to score.Give Colton Orr a regular shift
It has been a very rough year for Maple Leafs enforcer Colton Orr
. Things started off badly when he injured
Montreal fighter George Parros, who banged his head on the ice during their scrap and had to be wheeled off the ice on a stretcher. Orr seemed spooked after that and never really displayed a willingness to fight. He has six scraps, compared to 13 the season before.
Orr has also battled health issues that had him in and out of the lineup. When he was in the lineup and went out banging on every shift, he played. Give him some decent ice time.
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