By Rob Del Mundo
The Toronto Marlies season came to a merciful end on Sunday, April 11 with a 5-2 defeat to the Abbotsford Heat. The team finished two games under .500 on the season with a record of 33-35-6-6, good for only fifth place in the North Division and nine points back of the Manitoba Moose for a playoff spot. Toronto missed the post-season for the first time in three years.
Head coach Dallas Eakins, in his first year behind the Mariles bench, certainly can’t be faulted for the team’s subpar finish. All season long, the squad was plagued with injuries to key players such as Alex Foster (only 30 games played all season) and Darryl Boyce (20 GP, none since December 30). Two of the team’s leading point producers in Viktor Stalberg and Christian Hanson spent only half the year in the AHL while spending the rest of their time with the Maple Leafs.
Not even Keith Aulie, the 20-year old defenceman that the Leafs acquired as part of the Dion Phaneuf trade, could escape the injury bug. In a game on February 12 against Manitoba, Aulie suffered a season-ending shoulder separation on an icing play against the Moose’s Michael Grabner.
“The season was pretty frustrating, with a lot of unfortunate injuries and a lot adversity that happened over the course of the year. We never really had our team together a whole lot,” reflected Tim Brent, who wound up with both goals in the season finale played before 5,514 fans at Ricoh Coliseum.
“I don’t think we ever shut it down at any point in the year, so that’s something that we can be proud of, but it’s disappointing to miss the playoffs,” added forward Jay Rosehill.
Nevertheles the blueprint is already being drafted for next season, starting in goal. Yesterday the Leafs officially announced the signing of 22-year goaltender Jussi Rynnas to a two-year contract. The 6’5” netminder, who had the top save percentage (.929) during the 2009-10 season while playing for Assat in Finland, is expected to share goaltending duties with James Reimer.
“We are pleased that Jussi decided to sign with us, and we know that his level of play will be enhanced by working closely with our goaltending instructor Francois Allaire,” said Leafs president and general manager Brian Burke in a statement.
• The Marlies finished fifth in the North Division with a record of of 33-35-6-6 (80 points).
• The top scorers were Andre Deveaux (16 goals, 25 assists, 41 points), Viktor Stalberg (12-21-33), Greg Scott (10-22-32), and Christian Hanson (12-19-31).
• Brent also suited up for the Leafs in Toronto’s last regular season game versus the Montreal Canadiens. “It was pretty special. The Bell Centre in Montreal is quite the atmosphere. It was exciting for me to get a taste of the NHL. I wouldn’t have missed it for anything.”
• Rosehill on Eakins: “He did a pretty good as a first year coach. He knows a lot about the game. There were times when you thought he might lose it, but he always seemed to do something that you might not expect, and it would always seemed to be the best for the team. I think he’s made for coaching and he had a great first year as far as I’m concerned.”
• Reimer was named the winner of the Fans’ Choice Award for 2009-10. “He had a really good winning record,” said his teammate Ryan Hamilton. “Every time he’s in the net he gives us a chance to win. He’s a young kid and he’s got a lot of upside. I’m expecting nothing but some good things ahead for him.”
Rob Del Mundo is the author of the TMLfans.ca Marlies Report, and is a regular columnist at TMLfans.ca
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