Weâ€™ve partnered up with Pension Plan Puppets to bring to you a Player Review series, where we will be evaluating and grading the 2009-10 season for every Leaf who featured in a significant number of games for the Blue and White last season, with an eye towards 2010-11. Today we feature Garnet Exelby, profiled by Alex Tran.
The Summary: Exelby came to Toronto from Atlanta as part of the Pavel Kubina trade last summer, when Brian Burke needed to clear cap space for the free agency season. Essentially viewed as a salary dump with one year left on his contract, Exelby was given a shot to show Leafs’ management that he could contribute to the team as a useful third pairing defender. But when you’re ranked 6th on the defensive depth chart for the 2nd worst defensive team in the NHL, you can imagine expectations were already pretty low.
The Good: At his best, Exelby managed to eat up some minutes on a Leafs’ defense corps that labored through injuries and inconsistent play. He recorded a respectable 87 hits and 54 blocked shots in 51 games played, while toning down on the amount of unnecessary penalties he took from the season prior. Garnet also provided the team with a little bit of toughness on the back end, especially in between whistles when he’d come to the aid of his teammates during scrums.
The Bad: Wilson limited Exelby to a career low 10 minutes of ice-time per night, nearly a full 6 minutes below his next lowest mark, and it quickly became evident that the coaches were losing confidence in the struggling blueliner. Over the last 3 months of the season, he barely hovered above 7 minutes while the likes of Phaneuf and Gunnarsson began solidifying themselves in the Maple Leaf lineup. Despite modest ice-time, Exelby still managed to post a -8 rating and a horrific 4.5:1 giveaway/takeaway ratio. Yikes.
The Verdict: With Phaneuf, Beauchemin, Schenn, Komisarek and Gunnarsson already penciled into the team’s long-term defensive blueprint, there seems to be little room left for the uni-dimensional, turnover prone Exelby. The team would likely benefit from the addition of either another puck mover should Kaberle be traded, or a more reliable veteran option on the bottom pairing. The Exelby experiment in Toronto can likely be deemed a failure, though it was made mostly for salary reasons in the first place. Barely scratching the depth chart on the league’s 2nd worst defensive team likely means Exelby will have a tough time finding a permanent spot in an NHL lineup next season.
Season Rating: 5/10
(Exelby also tossed with Carcillo and Neil, which was nice to see)
Now itâ€™s your turn.Â In the comments, rate Finger on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the best) based on his performance relative to his potential and your expectations for the season.