Before heading out to play back-to-back games against the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday and the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday, the Toronto Maple Leafs sent winger Matt Frattin down to the AHL for the first time in his brief professional career.
Coming up to join the Leafs squad is Joey Crabb, who was off to a terrific start with the Marlies posting seven goals and 15 points through his first nine games.
Crabb will be relied on to provide a spark to the third line that has yet to show any real chemistry or offensive flare in their first few games. Granted the list of players who have spent time on the third line this year is long and players haven't had time to gel, but the Leafs will rely heavily on this line for secondary scoring. That is what we have not seen from the third line thus far.
Crabb played in 48 games with the big club last year and even spent some time opposite of Phil Kessel when the Leafs were trying to generate some scoring last year. He finished with three goals, 12 assists and a -1 rating.
During his stint this year he will be looking to prove he has the ability to stay up with Leafs and perhaps kick-start the remaining pair of Tyler Bozak and Matthew Lombardi, who have had success but not much as a cohesive group.
As for Frattin, I'm sure this is not how he would have liked to have his story go. After an excellent preseason, Frattin has managed only one assist and a -1 rating (though he did score a winning shootout goal for the team).
I truly believe that Frattin simply needs time to develop. I think that he is more than capable of continuing to be an effective third-line player, however, his potential is much higher than that and the only way the Leafs will find out is if he starts receiving top-line minutes with the Marlies.
Colborne, Kadri and Frattin will more than likely compose the top line down in the Marlies where he can be the true shooter that he is on a line with two players that are more than capable of getting him the puck.
He will be used on the PP and possibly the PK which will vastly improve his chances and ice time. He will be playing big minutes on a team that is likely to be amongst the best in the AHL this season.
If he performs well he could be back up within a week, though I think management would much rather leave him there a while now that he is down there and let him play. Armstrong is expected to be out of the lineup for another five-to-seven weeks so that gives any of the Leafs' prospects a chance to supplant Crabb and his roster spot with the Leafs.
Strange to think that we still have not seen the Leafs ice what they would probably consider their full roster yet this season and won't until we're all going crazy with Christmas songs (I feel very sorry for those of you who may already be suffering).