Over the past few seasons, Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke repeatedly stated that he had no intentions of trading defenseman Luke Schenn. Evidently, he turned down trade offers that had Schenn included in the deal. On the weekend of the 2012 draft, however, Burke decided it was time for a change.
Schenn, a former fifth overall pick, was dealt to the Philadelphia Flyers for forward James van Riemsdyk, a former 2nd overall pick. The move means there will be some space opening up on the Leafs’ blueline. Assuming that the new CBA is settled in time for the season to start, there could be a real battle in training camp for a coveted spot with the big club.
The Toronto Marlies’ blue line was one of their strengths all season long and they got even better on defence when Jake Gardiner came back down. It’s all but certain Gardiner will be a staple in the NHL this season, but what about the rest of the defenders on the Marlies roster?
An interesting possibility is Korbinian Holzer, drafted in the fourth round by the Maple Leafs back in 2006. Holzer has played in just two NHL games, both in the 2010-11 season. He had no points and two penalty minutes in those games. Holzer had one goal and 20 points with the Marlies last season and five points in 17 playoff games. More of a defensive defenseman, Holzer has good transition skills and doesn’t panic with the puck. He doesn’t shy away from physical play and he could be a good third pairing defenseman for the Leafs. Of all the Marlies’ young defenseman, he appears to be the guy with the best shot.
Simon Gysbers, a free agent the Leafs signed in 2010, had a solid year with the Marlies, scoring five goals and 29 points. He still has to work on his defensive game, but he has a lot of offensive potential.
Perhaps more of a long shot, Jesse Blacker, who turned pro with the Marlies last season, should at least get a look in training camp. His offensive game has been continually developing and he certainly has the potential to be a top-four defenceman.
The Maple Leafs currently have six NHL defensemen on their roster; Gardiner, Cody Franson, Dion Phaneuf, Carl Gunnarsson, Mike Komisarek and John-Micheal Liles. It will be tough for a young guy to stick as the seventh defenseman, but the consistent scratching of Franson and Komisarek last season means the door may be open for some new blood.
Burke may have another trade up his sleeve, or he may want to see what he has in the pipeline. Either way, Schenn’s departure means there may be some changes on the Marlies’ back-end.