Load management, a term NBA fans and specifically Raptors fans, hate to hear is now present in the NHL. The idea of implementing it on the Leafs, however, is shallow and ridiculous.
To clarify, the buzz term “load management” refers to strategic player resting against lesser opponents or on back to backs to stay healthy and fresh. The three candidates proposed for load management on Toronto are Frederick Andersen, Ron Hainsey, and Patrick Marleau.
Frederick Andersen – the Outlier
He’s the only candidate that load management is viable for. That being said, introducing late-season starting goalie rest is hardly a novel idea. Instead, it’s a concept and strategy elite teams have used for years for they’re most important players.
For Toronto, the idea seems for foreign due to the volume of starts Andersen has had while with the Leafs. As well, Garret Sparks has not instilled the greatest level of trust in his teammates or fans this season.
Sparks has looked solid as of late, stepping in extremely well in two relief appearances for Andersen and earning a win against Buffalo. He called out his team (himself included) for not playing with emotion and backed it up well.
With Sparks putting together some solid performances it’s a win-win for him to split the remaining games with Andersen. Enough to keep Freddie warm but enough to also build Sparks’ confidence.
Andersen will have his “load managed” but like I said before, obviously he would. This isn’t a symptom of the NBA’s worst phenomenon creeping into the NHL.
Ron Hainsey – The Indispensable
If you think the Leafs can afford to give Ron Hainsey nights off then I honestly doubt your hockey knowledge. Toronto has leaned on their veteran defenseman much more than I’m sure either side believed would be necessary when he initially signed on the team.
He’s been a top-4 D-man for Toronto all season, playing alongside Morgan Rielly for the majority of the season. With Rielly, Muzzin, and Zaitsev all getting leaned on even more in the absence of Gardiner and Dermott, Hainsey is a back-end lynch pin the Leafs cannot afford to rest.
He can have his minutes lowered, deservedly so, by shifting him to the bottom-pairing and having him work as a penalty kill specialist. This should help to bring Hainsey well under 20-minutes, as he is currently playing simply too much (24:21 against Buffalo).
Patrick Marleau – The Candidate
I’d actually manage his work load if it were a viable option right now. Marleau is extremely valuable as a locker-room guy and team leader, but on the ice he is lacking as a third-line player.
Rather than managing his minutes Mike Babcock could re-purpose his winger as a depth winger/center. Frederik Gauthier is out injured with only Nic Petan as back up right now, Marleau could be a solid choice as a fourth-line center.
This would also open up space for wingers like Nic Petan, Tyler Ennis, Connor Brown, and Trevor Moore to step up with increased minutes. So, if Marleau is going to be rested it shouldn’t be out of the lineup all together, but rather recast as a fourth-line option.