Over the course of the offseason, the Maple Leafs have made several moves to ensure the focus they have placed on grit, heart, and tenacious play at the NHL level will extend to the AHL Marlies as well.
The team has re-signed Marlies’ stalwarts Darryl Boyce, Andre Deveaux, Alex Foster, and team captain Ben Ondrus, as well as rugged waiver acquisition (and recent Memorial Cup winner) Richard Greenop, and free agents Jay Rosehill and Tim Brent.Â Â Â All are hopeful that solid play at the AHL level will result in NHL opportunities during the course of the season.
Torontomarlies.com recently caught up with Foster, Greenop and Ondrus to gather their insights on the upcoming season.
On what it means to play in Toronto:
“When I first signed with the organization it was awesome because of all the tradition about playing for the blue and white … the whole experience has been just unreal because itâ€™s a great city to play in and I have lots of family in the area. The fans have been great which makes it that much more special.”
On his offseason training regiman:
“The training so far this summer has been going great … Iâ€™ve been doing some speed skating drills on the ice but also some stuff on the track to work on my foot speed, and even a little yoga from time to time. Iâ€™m probably in the best shape this summer than over the past five years so Iâ€™m getting excited for the upcoming season.”
On winning the Marlies’ Fan Choice Award:
“It definitely meant a lot to me when I won the award because Toronto has great hockey fans that really understand the game. I think the fans saw my hard work ethic on a daily basis and that I gave 100% every time I touched the ice so Iâ€™m sure that helped. Also whatever the result was at the end of the day, I was always happy to talk to fans after the games and sign autographs.”
On being waived by the Blackhawks:
“It was a shock at first, but it turned out the Leafs were looking for a player of my description. It was a perfect fit.”
On how he views his role:
“My game is a hard-working game. I play rough. What is happening in Toronto reminds me of what happened in Windsor. Bob Boughner immediately brought in players who could play a rougher style. It worked for me. Iâ€™ve never been afraid to step up and do my job.”
On the direction the organization has taken:
â€œI really think [Brian Burke] is building an organization that can produce a contender at the NHL and the American league level.”
On returning in the AHL after NHL callups:
“Itâ€™s your job to play, no matter where you are. Youâ€™ve got to work to make yourself better. If you look at your situation or ask yourself why situations exist where someone else goes up and you donâ€™t, it doesnâ€™t do you any good.”
On entering his seventh season as a member of the Marlies:
“Itâ€™s a great city, [and the Ricoh Coliseum is] a great building. Weâ€™ve seen attendance going up. Our presence is growing in the community. We get to play in Canada. Thereâ€™s not much not to like about playing here.”
Leafs’ GM Brian Burke, on why Ben Ondrus is the right player to captain the Marlies:
“Ondrus is a consummate professional. He is a very good example of leadership and commitment for our young prospects and adds great depth to our organization.”
Fans should expect to see all three of these players earn NHL ice, if not right out of training camp then certainly as call-ups. Â All three are gritty, team-oriented players are willing to do what it takes to earn their NHL opportunity, yet at the same time understand the value of their AHL roles.
Clearly, the recent signings and re-signings on the Toronto Marlies suggest the team will be constructed in the same image as its parent club, and play a very similar tenacious style of game to better prepare the players for their future NHL experiences.Â Â With leaders and ‘effort players’ such as Foster, Greenop, and Ondrus, the Marlies will certainly be a very entertaining team to watch, and a difficult opponent for most anyone.