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Quick Shifts: Toronto Maple Leafs down to one last big decision - Sportsnet.ca

Quick Shifts: Toronto Maple Leafs down to one last big decision - Sportsnet.ca
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Elliotte Friedman joined Lead Off and talked about the possibility of Jason Spezza being demoted to the AHL or joining another NHL squad.

A quick mix of the things we gleaned from the week of hockey, serious and less so, and rolling four lines deep. We originally wrote 13 notes but had to cut one this week due to cap reasons.

1. Whats he doing at the rink?

Thats what Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock wondered aloud after the last NHL game Jason Spezza played.

This was last Saturday night in Philadelphia. Spezza had committed a couple of costly minor penalties, but hed also scored his first goal as Leaf and kept the longest shootout in franchise history alive as one of just two Toronto shooters to solve Brian Elliott over 11 rounds.

Twice, reporters lobbed softballs to the coach in the post-game scrum, chances to say something nice about a hockey lifer who took the league minimum to come home to a contender and play a bit part.

Sometimes hes a fourth-line guy, sometimes hes scratched. Why the heck would he come to the rink? Babcock said. He loves hockey, wants to be around the guys. He loves it. What you do is you show the people how much you love hockey and your passion for the game, and I think thats great.

Instead of saying how much the Leafs appreciated Spezza, or even how nice it was that he found the net twice, Babcock made the conversation about how much Spezza adores the sport.

Which is to say, we have a pretty good idea where the coach stands on whom to waive in the next few days.

With Martin Marincin and Nic Petan already clearing waivers (and, more importantly, cap space) Friday to accommodate the imminent return of Zach Hyman, one of Spezza, Nick Shore of Dmytro Timashov must be cut next.

Timashov, 23, makes sense to keep because of his potential for improvement and the fact the organization has invested four years of development. Hes the most in danger of getting scooped off the wire.

Just because Babcock prefers Shore on his fourth line Spezzas eight healthy scratches serve evidence doesnt necessarily mean Kyle Dubas will abide.

Its a tough call, which is why it appears delayed.

Cut Spezza, and Dubas risks damaging his power to lure future inexpensive veteran UFAs who might be wary of similar treatment.

Keep Spezza, and Dubas risks forcing upon Babcock a player he doesnt really want on his fourth line. And if this is truly Babcocks last shot to run with this core, there is case that the coach should be able to ride with a roster he believes in.

When youve been a top player and now youre trying to fit into that role piece, thats the hardest part, Babcock said Wednesday. These other guys have gotten used to it. Some of them have spent 10, eight, five years doing it and have found a way to survive and stay mentally strong and still are feeling good about themselves. Because the wear of it can take all your energy.

You know, [Spezza] is lucky. Hes got a whole life going on. Hes got four girls, and so when he leaves the rink, its going to be great there too.

What must be considered in all of this, and what John Tavaress broken finger shouldve reminded everyone involved, is the very real possibility of injury.

Spezza is more versatile than Shore.

Hes willing to play the fourth line, but he can also run a third line if necessary, set an example and be a sounding board for a predominantly young forward core, pitch in on the second power-play unit, win a key faceoff, or snipe in a shootout.
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