Colton Orr

Leafs recall Orr for season finale


With his contract set to expire and his future in the game uncertain the Toronto Maple Leafs have recalled Colton Orr.

Orr spent the entire season with the American Hockey League’s Toronto Marlies registering four penalty minutes while appearing in 14 games.

An undrafted free agent signing of the Boston Bruins, Orr has appeared in 476 career NHL games with the Bruins, New York Rangers and Leafs registering 24 points and 1,186 penalty minutes.

Orr was waived along with fellow enforcer Frazer McLaren in October.

The Leafs play host to the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night in the season finale.

Given the way the game is headed, it could be Orr’s final NHL game.

Farewell to truculence? Leafs waive Orr, McLaren


It appears Toronto will no longer try and punch its way to victory.

On Monday, the Leafs put veteran tough guys Colton Orr and Frazer McLaren on waivers, a significant shift in philosophy from a team that once prided itself on “pugnacity, testosterone, truculence.”

Orr, 32, was arguably the poster boy for ex-GM Brian Burke’s pugnacious approach. He averaged two points, five minutes TOI per game and 11 fights annually during his five-year stint in Toronto, racking up over 600 PIM.

McLaren, 26, was claimed off waivers shortly into the lockout-shortened ’13 campaign and proceeded to fight 21 times over parts of two seasons, appearing in 62 games all told.

In other moves today, Toronto put German rearguard Korbinian Holzer on waivers — meaning 21-year-old (and ’11 first-rounder) Stuart Percy made the team as the seventh defenseman; the Leafs also re-assigned Swedish wunderkind William Nylander to either the AHL or Sweden (the club hasn’t yet decided where the eighth overall pick at this year’s draft will play.)

While all of today’s moves hold significance, many will point to the Orr and McLaren moves as further evidence of Toronto adopting a more “modern” approach to the game. Their dedication to analytics and progressive statistical research is well documented; now, it appears they’re utilizing that information and approach to remake the roster and use more skilled, versatile players in the bottom six forward group — as opposed to guys that are primarily out there to fight and intimidate.

Under Pressure: Randy Carlyle


“If you’re worried about optics in this market, it’s going to be a disaster. I think you have to make a decision based on what you think is the best decision for the organization, and this in our minds was clearly the best option.

“He was a guy we believe can get the job done for us. Whether optics are that it’s the wrong thing to do or not doesn’t really matter to us. If you’re looking at trying to please people, you’re probably going to make some poor decisions.”

That was Toronto GM Dave Nonis this past May, talking about the decision to extend head coach Randy Carlyle. The move came under heavy fire as the optics of retaining Carlyle, who presided over a Leafs team that went 2-12-0 down the stretch and collapsed out of playoff contention, left many scratching their heads. Several other coaches that whiffed on the playoffs met their demise — John Tortorella, Adam Oates and Barry Trotz, to name a few — and Nonis made it clear there was some issue at the coaching level by turfing all three of Toronto’s assistants.

Yet when the dust settled, Carlyle remained. One of the few constants in an offseason filled with change.

The Leafs really shifted course this summer. They hired a new president, Brendan Shanahan, then emerged as progressive club on the advanced analytics front — first, with the hiring of 28-year-old assistant GM Kyle Dubas, known as a fancy stat advocate with OHL Sault Ste. Marie; then, with the creation of an advanced numbers department, spearheaded by the guy that used to run Extra Skater.

Change happened on the ice, too.

Gone, it seems, are the day of trotting out truculent bottom-six forwards like Colton Orr and Frazer McLaren. Toronto had itself a Moneyball-esque summer, signing (slightly) flawed veterans on the cheap in the hope of striking gold — guys like former 30-goal scorer David Booth (signed for $1.1M after getting bought out of a disastrous situation in Vancouver), skilled center Mike Santorelli (inked for $1.5M after last season was cut short by season-ending shoulder surgery) and power forward Daniel Winnik (who fell out of favor in Anaheim, remained unsigned ’til August, then came to Toronto for $1.3M). These additions, along with Finnish forwards Petri Kontiola and Leo Komarov, should give Toronto the most depth it’s had up front in the Carlyle era.

As such, the pressure is on.

By keeping Carlyle after last year’s collapse, the message was loud and clear — this was on the players, not the coach. But from that point forward, the challenge was put on everybody to achieve more, coaches included. Expectations have been heightened and there is a demand for improvement — for example, Toronto could have a wildly competitive training camp, as there are 15 forwards on NHL contracts fighting for 12 spots.

All of this, of course, comes back to Carlyle, who has now been given tools to succeed: new players, new assistants and a new, fresh look at the managerial level. If that pressure wasn’t obvious enough, Nonis ensured it in May by saying his coach needs to get through to this group.

“If you’ve seen it being done before with most of the same players, or a lot of the same players, and with that coach leading that group, I know it can happen,” said Nonis. “I know it has happened with this group before. I know that (Carlyle) has reached them before, reached them at times this year.

“For me it’s not that we’re guessing whether or not he can have success or he can get through to them. We’ve seen it. I know that it’s there and we feel he is the guy that can get through to this group.”

Leafs face Lightning without Bolland, Ranger

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The Toronto Maple Leafs are fighting off elimination as they face the Tampa Bay Lightning, but they’ll do so without a key forward.

Dave Bolland (ankle) is unable to play tonight. The team announced that Paul Ranger is also missing the game while Carter Ashton, Jerry D’Amigo and Colton Orr return to the lineup.

Some wonder if we’ll see Bolland, 27, play again this season.

In case you’re wondering, the Leafs could be eliminated two ways tonight:

  • By losing in regulation while the Columbus Blue Jackets gain a point.
  • If they lose in OT or a shootout, the Blue Jackets win and the Detroit Red Wings gain a point.

The Maple Leafs will need to dig deep, and even then, they’ll need plenty of help to keep their playoff hopes alive.

Leafs make Lupul late scratch for key tilt vs. Boston


Just prior to their biggest game of the season, the Toronto Maple Leafs announced that Joffrey Lupul would miss tonight’s game against the Bruins with a lower-body injury.

Lupul, third on the team in goals with 22, left the morning skate early amid whispers he was on the limp. Whatever’s ailing Lupul didn’t hold him back much in Tuesday’s win over Calgary, however, as he received over 18 minutes of ice time (though he did have a quiet game, failing to register a point or shot on goal.)

It looks as though Jerry D’Amigo will draw in to replace Lupul up front, giving the Leafs a look of:

James van Riemsdyk — Tyler Bozak — Phil Kessel

Mason Raymond — Dave Bolland — David Clarkson

D’Amigo — Nazem Kadri — Troy Bodie

Nikolai Kulemin — Jay McClement — Colton Orr