Sam Gagner is no longer a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs organization. At least, for now.
This was always a possibility.
When the Vancouver Canucks loaned Sam Gagner to the Toronto Marlies following a less-than-stellar training camp in September, they were essentially doing him a favour. Not only does the veteran centre hail from London, Ontario – merely a 2-hour drive from downtown Toronto – he’d only just laid down roots in the area with his young family.
Rather than sentencing him to long bus rides through Utica, New York, Canucks management sent him home.
From the moment Gagner stepped on the ice as a Marlie, it became markedly obvious that he was an NHLer. His instincts, skills, and vision were simply all a step above those typically seen at the AHL level – a notion everyone, save for Jim Benning, appeared aware of.
Gagner was a big fish swimming in a small pond. And he proved it, bookmarking his Marlies’ tenure to the tune of 15 points in 15 games.
A powerplay weapon, 4 of Gagner’s 7 total goals with the Marlies came on the man advantage. His presence was a shot in the arm for an anaemic power play which has appeared perpetually allergic to consistency over the past two seasons.
Simply put, Gagner should probably have never been jettisoned to the AHL in the first place and his promotion this morning is nothing if not a long time coming.
So, where do the Marlies go from here? Gagner operated as the team’s foremost offensive weapon and he’s gone now, leaving behind him a squad who sits last in the North Division with a 5-7-2-1 record.
Well, for one, the blow of Gagner’s departure is softened by returns from a number of key contributors. Trevor Moore makes his way back into the Marlies’ lineup on the heels of his second action-less internship with the Maple Leafs and instantly regains his spot within the top-5 in team scoring.
Then there’s Adam Brooks, having missed all but 3 games to this point in the season with various ailments, who now appears to finally be back at 100%. Mix in a pair of Growler callups in Brady Ferguson and Giorgio Estephan, both of whom have been impressive in their brief AHL auditions, and the Marlies should recoup just enough depth up front to carry the load.
Not to mention, there is always the chance that Gagner returns to Coca-Cola Coliseum at some point this year. Having already been waived and sent down, he’s able to slide through waivers at a moment’s notice.
But, at least for now, the Marlies will have to make do without him.
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