When a team loses one of their key players due to injury there is rarely a bright side. However, when Joffrey Lupul was lost with a fractured forearm he suffered earlier this season against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Toronto Maple Leafs had the luxury of calling up Matt Frattin from the Marlies. Since then Frattin has been the Leafs’ most dangerous weapon.
Frattin scored the only goal for Toronto in their 4-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes last night, and that was the fifth time he has scored in just six games so far this season. Despite not being with the team for the first three games in the 2013 campaign, Frattin still leads the squad in goals and sits second in points, behind Nazem Kadri. The scary thing is, had Lupul not been hurt Frattin may have still been down with the Marlies.
Randy Carlyle indicated that Frattin did not perform well enough during training camp to earn a spot on the Leafs’ roster. Need I remind you that because of the lockout training camps were roughly a week long with only a handful of practices, so making a judgement call based on this short window seemed to make little sense. Carlyle also added that Frattin needed to improve his physical play to be an NHL player.
Let’s analyze those two reasons shall we. Instead of basing a decision about Frattin on a short training camp, looking at his entire body of work over the last year or so would have been much more logical. Frattin did not have eye popping numbers during the 2011-12 regular season bouncing back and forth between the Leafs and Marlies, but scoring 22 goals in 79 combined games with the two teams was decent and proved he could play at both levels.
Perhaps the best indication that Frattin was turning a corner came in last year’s run to the Calder Cup Final by the Marlies. He had 10 goals in just 13 playoff games before suffering a significant knee injury. That injury forced him to miss the start of the Marlies’ season this year, but upon his return he showed no ill effects, recording 17 points in 21 games. Had the Leafs focused on this instead of a few bad practices during camp, then Frattin should have been a lock to make the squad.
So what about the improvements Carlyle wanted to see in Frattin’s physical game? That was puzzling also. While any NHL player needs to bring some toughness to their play, Frattin doesn’t strike me as a guy that needs to do that to be effective. He seems to be a pure goal scorer and finisher who has built some great chemistry with Kadri. The two already have Leo Komarov on their line that hits anything that moves and the Leafs boast Mike Brown and Colton Orr strictly for their rough and tumble play.
Nothing against Orr, but this is something that is going to be debated more and more over the next few years. Should someone like Orr, who’s essentially just there to fight, take a roster spot from someone like Frattin? Whether or not you believe fighting should be in the game or not is irrelevant, but I’m not sure how keeping a scorer out of the line-up to dress a fighter ever made sense in the first place.
With Phil Kessel in a major scoring slump, the Leafs are extremely fortunate Frattin was around to provide some offense to a team that badly needs it. It’s just sad that it took an injury for him to get a chance to begin with.