It didn’t take long for an injury to open a roster spot at Toronto Maple Leafs training camp.
Tough guy Frazer McLaren will miss at least two weeks after his pinky finger was fractured by a slash from teammate Carter Ashton, an absence that will almost certainly keep him out of the opening night lineup on Oct. 1 in Montreal.
Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said Monday the good news was pins wouldn’t be required to set the break, meaning McLaren wouldn’t likely miss the full four-to-six weeks normally required.
“There’s a healing process,” Carlyle said. “I wouldn’t say that’s it’s four to six [weeks] now. That’s not the message that we got. It’ll be immobilized for at least two weeks to let the healing process start.”
McLaren came into camp with a two-year, one-way contract and wasn’t going to the minors, making him one of 12 forwards – if tryout Mason Raymond makes the team – to be guaranteed a spot up front.
That didn’t leave a lot of room for the other forwards in camp, but this injury changes things a little and allows for several others to battle to make the opening night roster.
In the mix for those two final forward spots are the likes of Joe Colborne, Jerry D’Amigo, Trevor Smith, Ashton, David Broll and Troy Bodie, a curious mix of prospects and veteran AHL types who don’t have much NHL experience.
Colborne will require waivers to return to the AHL and had a strong showing over the second half last season, so he should have a leg up on the others, leaving only one opening for a surprise to (likely temporarily) fill in for McLaren.
Given they brings the kind of muscle Carlyle likes to employ, Broll and Bodie make the most sense there.
“We like to always make sure that there’s competition for a position,” Carlyle said. “Now there are issues that come into play – contracts, waivers, tryouts, termination of contracts – and all of those things are factors.”
Carlyle was also asked on Monday about the NHL’s new alignment for this season, which puts the Leafs into one of two new eight-team divisions where only four teams will qualify for the postseason.
And he’s not a fan.
“It makes it more difficult for us to qualify for the playoffs,” Carlyle said. “It’s a simple as that. There’s more teams on our side. It’s going to be so many percentage points tougher for us to qualify for the playoffs for every team on our side.
“It kind of makes you scratch your head over the summer. Why is that happening on this side but not the other side? But those are things that are out of your control as a coach so you just take note.
“I have my personal feeling about it but you’re part of a league and you’re expected to be a good partner and that’s what our job is. We’ll play in a situation where they’ve made it a little bit more difficult for us to qualify for the playoffs. Accept the challenge.”
The Leafs will ice a slightly more experienced roster in their second preseason game on Monday night in the second of a back-to-back series with the Philadelphia Flyers.
In addition to dressing their full first line, Jonathan Bernier will be in goal and David Clarkson will make his debut of sorts in a Leafs uniform.
NHL teams have to play a minimum of eight “veterans” in each preseason game.
Here’s the projected lineup:
Van Riemsdyk – Bozak – Kessel
Smith – McKegg – Clarkson
D’Amigo – Ashton – Kulemin
Ross – Crescenzi – Bodie
Gardiner – Brennan
Rielly – Granberg
Fraser – MacWilliam