The Maple Leafs’ roller coaster season swung upwards again after Monday’s stirring, come-from-behind win over the powerful Washington Capitals. Few expect something similar to occur when Toronto takes on Pittsburgh on Wednesday – however, at least Leafs Nation had something positive to take away from a tough schedule stretch (that also includes tilts Thursday against Philadelphia and Saturday versus Montreal).
But the next time the Leafs struggle, I’ll be looking to see whether team brass employs a tactic they’ve yet to employ this year: making enforcer Colton Orr a healthy scratch.
I know, I know, you’re reading this and thinking even the mere suggestion of sitting out Orr sounds like crazy talk. After all, this is someone who averages a whopping 5:02 of ice time per game; who has just two goals and as many points in 26 games; and who attempted to set a new NHL record for roughing minors when he was assessed three of them in one shift against Buffalo Nov. 26.
What team could do without that kind of all-around contributor?
Well, lots, as a matter of fact. Even the New York Rangers – the laughingstock of the league last summer when they signed goon Derek Boogaard to a massive free agent contract – have had enough sense to make Boogaard a healthy scratch four times this season.
Yet Orr continues to occupy a spot on Toronto’s bench, never paying the price the way John Mitchell or Brett Lebda has this year.
“But wait!” you say. “If Orr isn’t playing, who will protect our star players from another team’s enforcer?”
Well, lots of players, as a matter of fact. Blueliners Mike Komisarek, Luke Schenn and Francois Beauchemin all have been willing to fight in the past, as has winger Mike Brown.
If Toronto truly is as truculent as GM Brian Burke claims, one player shouldn’t be depended on to provide toughness. I’d rather see Luca Caputi learning the NHL game, or increased ice time for their young players, than watch Orr out there each night.
His contributions simply don’t warrant his perpetual presence in the lineup.
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