Frank Corrado has played 16:24 this season. He hasn’t seen game action in more than a month, and that’s after waiting exactly one month to get his first shot at getting into the Maple Leafs’ lineup. Simply put, Corrado just wants the chance to play.
After playing just one game, and watching from the press box for 28 others, Corrado is starting to become more vocally frustrated with his situation in Toronto. In speaking with The Athletic’s David Alter, Corrado said his current run in the press box is getting “really frustrating right now,” and he pointed how everyone else on the Maple Leafs’ blueline has gotten their chance while he simply hasn’t.
More pointedly, he said that he has the support of GM Lou Lamoriello, but pointed out that coach Mike Babcock doesn’t quite feel the same way.
“(Lamoriello’s support) does make me feel better about the situation,” Corrado told Alter. “But at the end of the day, the coach is the one who makes the lineup and if the coach doesn’t like you, then you’re not going to play. And that’s where I’m at right now.”
As one could surmise, Corrado’s comments didn’t go without mention to Babcock, and the Maple Leafs’ bench boss said, plain and simple, that a dislike of Corrado absolutely wasn’t the case, nor is it the reason Corrado hasn’t seen action since Nov. 12.
“If you think me liking you has anything to do with whether you play or don’t play, you’re missing the boat big time,” Babcock said post-game. “I love the guys and I’m hoping for all of them that they do well. Whether you go in the lineup or not is based on how you play. Period. Nothing personal. It becomes personal, and it’s just unfortunate that he feels that way. It’s too bad. We talk quite a bit and we’ll talk again. He’s a young guy, he’s frustrated, he had his chance with the media today and that’s life.”
You can’t help but feel bad for Corrado, though. Even if he’s not an NHL-ready defenseman, he deserves the chance to play, be it on the Maple Leafs, another big-league club or by getting a demotion to the AHL and actually getting the chance to see some ice. Being stuck in “No Man’s Land,” as Corrado told Alter, has almost certainly been disastrous for his growth as a player, and without the prospect of seeing regular minutes anywhere, he’s not about to improve.
What’s befuddling is this is the second time this season the Maple Leafs have gone through this situation, with Thursday’s loss to the Arizona Coyotes serving as a reminder of the first go-round. Peter Holland, who scored the shootout winner for Arizona on Thursday, had played just eight times in 25 games with the Maple Leafs, skating less than 10 minutes in every game he actually saw from late-October on. Eventually, he asked out of Toronto, and his wish was granted when he was moved to the Coyotes.
There hasn’t been any report of Corrado attempting to beg his way out of Toronto, but one has to think that has to be coming, if it hasn’t quietly happened already. And it’s not as if Corrado is about to leave Toronto via waivers. That much is clear. On a one-way deal, Corrado would likely be scooped up and lost for nothing, and that’s not a situation the Maple Leafs want to have to deal with.
The troublesome part is that even with injury, Corrado is going to have a tough time finding any minutes. The Maple Leafs’ cap situation has allowed them to technically carry nine defenseman, although Stephane Robidas is on injured reserve with no hope of suiting up any time soon. And when a spot has opened on the backend due to injury, Corrado has remained the odd-man out on what then becomes a seven-man blueline.
One has to imagine that eventually — someway, somehow — Corrado is going to get his chance to actually see the ice. For his sake, though, let’s hope it doesn’t take him waiting until his one-year deal with the Maple Leafs is through.
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