Matt Frattin, Joe Colborne and Nazem Kadri celebrate together - Photo courtesy Christian Bonin / TSG Photo

Matt Frattin, Joe Colborne and Nazem Kadri celebrate together – Photo courtesy Christian Bonin / TSG Photo

If I had a dollar for every time I was told to look at the bigger picture, I’d be rich.

Especially as the season progresses, it becomes easier and easier to find satisfaction in the now and ever harder to see how all the cogs drive the machine – even the small ones.

This started out as an effort to put into context many of the recent events for myself. It then evolved into a search through date books and scoresheets, and has now ended up in a blog. Who would’ve figured?

February 21st, 2011. At first glance it doesn’t seem like the most important date. It fell in a season where both the Marlies and Maple Leafs failed to make the playoffs. It was a 1:00pm game, a start time that receives mixed responses depending on who you speak to. San Antonio was in town as the Marlies were on their third game of an extended home stand. Less than six minutes into the first period while on the powerplay Nazem Kadri fed the puck over to Joe Colborne who tucked it in the net. It was the first time the two ever combined for a goal.

February 21st, 2011 - Joe Colborne lines up for a faceoff - Photo courtesy Mike Ivall

February 21st, 2011 – Joe Colborne lines up for a faceoff – Photo courtesy Mike Ivall

Little cogs.

November 5th, 2011. Oddly enough, against the same San Antonio team but this time during the Marlies annual Royal road trip which opens the month of November. In just their second game playing together Matt Frattin, Nazem Kadri and Joe Colborne experience a 6-1 loss – the team’s fourth straight defeat.

The next night in Houston the team responds with six goals of their own – two from Frattin – rolling past the Aeros by a final score of 6-2. It would start a streak that saw the Marlies capture 15 of a possible 18 points on the road, one of the team’s most successful trips away from home to date. Later that month while both on recall to the Maple Leafs, Frattin setup Colborne for his first National Hockey League goal. Eight days later Colborne returned the favour.

Experiences together – both good and bad – are what help forge a team.

May 13th, 2013. The Maple Leafs are in the post-season for the first time in nine years. After falling behind 3-1 in a series to arch-rival Boston, the youthful Leafs enter game seven on the wings of two straight wins. Matt Frattin, Nazem Kadri and Joe Colborne are all listed on the roster alongside seven others who spent time on the Marlies squad.

Photo courtesy Graig Abel / Abel Images

Photo courtesy Graig Abel / Abel Images

It was Roger Staubach – a two-time SuperBowl champion with the Cowboys – that once said the best teams are those with chemistry.

It is that unquantifiable attribute that can’t be calculated on a stats sheet or measured during training camp testing. It won’t be discovered by the way a goaltender makes a save, but rather where he puts the puck afterwards. It can be seen in all those great plays that in the end are lost amongst the double-digits on a shot clock. It’s the flip passes, saucer passes, forechecks and backchecks; not by you, but by your linemate – allowing you to maneuver around the ice in a way the opposing coach would have never predicted.

It’s the precursor to greatness.

It won’t be tucked in a hockey back or stowed away in carry-on luggage, but it’s what each team member takes away from game seven. One more experience. A belt around the team that brings them one notch closer.

May 15th, 2013. A team loaded with Leafs draft picks and first year players will take to the ice alongside members of last year’s Calder Cup contending Marlies, and in game three of the Western Conference Semifinals chemistry will continue to develop. Greg McKegg could setup Jerry D’Amigo for the game winner. Jesse Blacker may block a Grand Rapids point shot, or clear a rebound from Drew MacIntyre’s crease. Josh Leivo’s forecheck could open up room for Brad Ross to invade the blue paint.

The growth of all these players is undeniably linked to the experiences they go through together. Their abilities to battle from behind or hold a lead. To come back in a series and to close one out. This chemistry emerges from battling together through a gruelling regular season to hopefully ascend up the playoff latter.

June 14th, xxxx. Toronto will welcome home a champion. NHL or AHL. I won’t complain.

***

Tune in as the Marlies compete in three straight in Grand Rapids as part of the 2-3-2 best-of-seven series. Game times are 7pm on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.

Spencer Abbott continues to inch closer towards a return after being banged up in the first round. The rookie skated during practice on Monday before the team departed for Grand Rapids.

Joe Colborne and Jesse Blacker both appear on the Marlies roster. Ryan Hamilton is also eligible to return.

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