Leafs escape to warmer climates during bye week

After a disappointing 4-3 loss to the Sens, the Leafs head into a five day break without any hockey. Is this a good thing or bad thing for the young team?

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Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock was clear what his expectations were for his team ahead of last night’s contest against the Ottawa Senators. With a five day, league mandated break on the horizon, he didn’t want any of his players looking too far ahead. 

“The first message we do is make sure everyone has their trip organized today,” said the Leafs’ bench boss. “So that when the game is on you haven’t already left [mentally], so that you’re focused on getting the points. We need the points.”

Well… so much for that plan. The Leafs squandered two points against the Sens by giving up a late goal to Sens forward Tom Pyatt. The Leafs played a middling first period and didn’t seem to have any life in them until rookie Andreas Borgman got them on the board in the final minute of the second period. 

As for the team’s plans now? Most of them will be hitting the beach this week. When asked where he’s going, Jake Gardiner said: “Florida.” Nazem Kadri? “Mexico.”

Babcock wouldn’t tip his hand saying only, “I’m going to go have some fun.”

In other Leafs news, the team announced this morning that it has assigned rookie Travis Dermott and third-year pro Frederik Gauthier have been assigned to the team’s AHL affiliate the Toronto Marlies.

Dermott, a second round pick (34th overall) of the Leafs in 2015, impressed during his first two NHL games last week, earning an assist in his debut against the Vancouver Canucks.

"I thought he was confident, moved the puck, skated good. He looks like he's got good hockey sense," Leafs head coach Mike Babcock said on Saturday evening. "It looked like the situation didn't intimidate him at all."

But it wasn’t just the Leafs’ bench boss who was impressed with Dermott this past weekend, former OHL opponent Mitch Marner has been impressed with Dermott for years. “He is a very annoying person to play against,” Marner said yesterday as he recalled the battles the two had during their respective times in the OHL with the London Knights had with Dermott’s Erie Otters. Marner, a former captain with the Knights, faced off against Dermott and the Otter for three season in the OHL and has vivid memories of going up against his now teammate.

“He plays the game physically, he plays the game smart. He will make you take penalties.”

As for Gauthier, the giant 6’5”, 232 pound center has played just five games for the Leafs this season, but has managed 33 games with the Leafs over his three pro seasons. He has five goals and eight points with the Marlies so far this season.

The former 1st round pick (21st overall) of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft certainly has the size and skill set to be a valuable 4th line center on the Leafs, but inconsistency has plagued his game in recent seasons. He’s just 22-years-old though and seems to have found a fan in Babcock, so it’s possible that he’s returned to the Leafs following their week long break.