The AHL is a development league. Turnover is expected and often happens on a year to year basis. The Marlies, a recent exception, have done a great job keeping a core group of players over the past three seasons. That group have played a big part in not only attaining success at the farm team level, but have also aided in translating that success to the Maple Leafs and NHL levels. That said, change is inevitable.
With so many Marlies turned Maple Leafs last season and some players getting opportunities with other NHL teams, the dressing room at Ricoh Coliseum will look very different come training camp 2013. This is part of the natural cycle in the AHL and one the organization should be proud of..having so many graduates.
While familiar names like Hamilton, Zigomanis, Acton, Scott and Rynnas are not returning, players that had previously been part of the bigger picture could now be in the center of it and a good group remains a possibility. Jerry D’amigo,Kevin Marshall, Greg McKegg, Kenny Ryan and Jesse Blacker are just a few that could carry enhanced roles and provide stability to a younger crop destined for their first full year of pro hockey.
D’amigo is one of those players on the above list that stands out, for several reasons.
When you look down the roster and search for experience and durability, Jerry’s name arrives on your tongue. After playing in every game two seasons ago, he went on to play in 70 of the 76 in 2012-2013. Most of his minutes were “hard” minutes, required to play an energy role and relied upon for his offensive forechecking and committment to paying the price in his own zone, as well - shift in and shift out.
Entering into his 4th season with the Marlies, he is also a “no doubter” on the penalty kill. He was part of the pk squad that finished number 1 in the league during the season that included a run to the Calder Cup Finals and even though Toronto was outside of the top 10 last regular season, in the playoffs – where it counts – the group finished top 2.
The Binghamton, New York native also brings with him the ability to rise to the occasion and is now a proven playoff contributor. Over the past two years, with 26 games of post season experience, he has recorded 22 points. Of his 8 goals in the 2012 playoffs, two were game winners. He has developed a reputation for being a reliable performer when there is no room for error.
D’amigo also has a relationship with new head coach Steve Spott. The pair go back to the Kitchener Rangers, when Jerry was assigned to the OHL club by the Maple Leafs. D’amigo scored 12 goals in 21 games and added an additional 7 over 11 playoff contests that year. He credits that experience and the help from Spott as a positive turning point at that stage of his career.
“It wasn’t satisfied and it flipped a switch for me. That experience allowed me to re-gain my confidence, produce goals and contribute offensively. It brought me back to the player I thought I could be, the way I was through most of my career. He (Spott) communicated well. He made sure guys were in good situations and helped make guys comfortable, because of the fit. He helped motivate me to have the best summer I could possibly have (coming out of that year) and it in turn helped me get in to my first full year of pro hockey. ”
Now required to act as a veteran forward to the new crop coming in, D’amigo is eager to grow as a team, something he feels Spott is going to be a great deal of help with, also.
“He (Spott) was really good with the younger guys. It will be a great experience for the coach to grow with the players and the players to grow with the coach. He is a class act. Even at the World Juniors (Spott was on the Canadian bench) he was very respectful and would talk to me at that time, as well.”
That gold medal was also a big part of D’amigo’s development as a player and again he stood out as a clutch performer. He is anxious to take his game to the next level, but if he finds himself in Marlies colours throughout the year, he will be determined to once again win with Spott.
So, while there is room for change, change can be good and the Marlies are counting on that.