Michael Traikos tweeted today that Matt Frattin would sit for tonight's Marlies game because of the upcoming training camp. No mention has been made of Nazem Kadri's status for tonight's game but no news generally means status quo so we can infer that Kadri will likely dress which raises some interesting questions as it pertains to the Leafs top forward prospects.
The first conclusion that we may draw is that the organization feels that Frattin is the more useful player at the NHL level in the short term. Statistically speaking, Kadri has more points in fewer games in the NHL than Frattin does but on its own, the difference (4 more points in 6 fewer games) isn't significant enough to say for certain whether this assessment is off-base.
Those who suggest that Frattin is a vastly superior defensive player and is thus better suited to a bottom-6 role may be surprised to find that the advanced numbers don't bear that argument out. Kadri, as it turns out, is a possession monster, posting the second best Corsi-Rel (10.9) on the team according to BehindTheNet. Frattin was 14th at -1.5. For the uninitiated, Corsi-Rel is a measure designed to capture a player's all-around game. It's basically shot +/- for when a player is on the ice compared against the team's shot +/- when they aren't.
If you think linemates were the difference, you're probably wrong there too. Kadri's most common linemate was Matthew Lombardi while Frattin's was Grabovski.
Furthermore, Kadri has outperformed Frattin in the AHL this season as well. Given that all of the recent data, all of the NHL level data, and future potential all seem to favour Kadri's move to the NHL, why does Frattin seem to have the inside track?
The least Tin-Foil Hat theory is that Kadri is playing tonight because it will only be his second game back since sustaining a concussion (or... erm... not a concussion) on Boxing Day. That's a good reason to keep him in the lineup and is certainly a plausible explanation. If you're convinced by this then Frattin doesn't necessarily have the inside track on an NHL roster spot and the Leafs may still be very happy with what they have in Kadri.
Another possibility is that the Leafs actually are more keen on having Frattin in camp than Kadri despite the evidence that Kadri is the superior player. Whether Burke is being tongue-in-cheek or not when he talks about the Leafs not being interested in advanced statistics is anyone's guess but if Frattin really is the Leafs Brass' Golden Child then we can probably start taking Burke at his word on this one. I'm a little less convinced on this possibility mainly because of Randy Carlyle.
When Kadri was an emergency call-up late last year and the Leafs couldn't keep him in the NHL once they had the requisite number of healthy bodies, Carlyle told Kadri that if he could keep him on the Leafs, he would have. If Carlyle liked Kadri that much then, and 6 months later having watched Kadri hover at a point-per-game pace in the AHL, I can't imagine his opinion would have dramatically changed.
Which leads us to our third possibility: that Kadri is one of the pieces headed West in a Luongo deal and thus, by default, Frattin is NHL-bound.
Vancouver was reportedly on a scouting trip and took in the Toronto Marlies last week (Kadri played Saturday night). Of the players currently playing regular minutes with the Marlies, only Kadri, Frattin, Colborne, and Blacker would qualify as assets of any real significance.
If this is the case and a deal appears close, why keep skating Kadri and risk injury? Wouldn't it make sense to pull him out of the lineup? Wait a minute. The Leafs are pulling Frattin out of the lineup.
This is all idle speculation at this point but the way the team is handling these two at the moment is certainly a cause for some raised eyebrows and the confluence of the Luongo rumours, Vancouver scouts' presence, and the strange behaviour around two of our most marketable AHL assets has me thinking that if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and smells like a duck... maybe it's a duck.