Frank Corrado is not having a good year.
The 23-year-old Canadian was waived by the Vancouver Canucks in 2015 after four years of struggle to make a mark since being drafted, and seemed to fall on his feet when being claimed by his home town Toronto Maple Leafs early in the 2015 season. However, a near 3 month wait to make his debut led to him only suiting up in the NHL 35 times last season (which still pretty much doubled his total NHL games after playing only 25 in four years in the Canucks organisation)...and this season, the once-heralded young talent has been frozen out by Mike Babcock, He's only played once for the Maple Leafs this season, while remaining with the NHL team, and finally broke his silence this week on his frustration.
Corrado told The Athletic yesterday: "“everyone on our back end gets a chance to play except me. I’d love to play. I had a good camp. I put on 10 pounds in the summer. I sacrificed a lot to earn a job here when there might not have been one for me.". In short, it seems that a year-and-a-half of being the odd-man-out in Toronto has well and truly taken any gloss off playing for his home town team. The Woodbridge, ON native has had enough of sitting on the sidelines.
He's been given short shrift by Mike Babcock, too, with the somewhat short comment from the Leafs coach:
"“Whether you go in the lineup or not is based on how you play — period. Nothing personal one bit. It’s just unfortunate he feels that way, that’s too bad. We talk quite a bit and we’ll talk again, but he’s a young guy, he’s frustrated. He had his chance with the media today and that’s life.”
Or, translated: "you ain't good enough to get a chance here, kid".
This is a situation that has the makings of a soap opera. A young talented prospect ready and willing to play, a public who are willing to give him a chance - and a coach who simply doesn't want him around, seemingly. At least not in uniform. Corrado is out in the cold in Toronto as winter deepens in a way few other players in the NHL are, never mind the Leafs.
The weird thing is, that the Leafs may simply not realise what they have here. Corrado is not overly big at 6'1 and 195lbs, but he's a useful skater, a right shot defenseman (always useful in a league where the overwhelming majority of players shoot left), and he's capable of solid NHL play. But Toronto seem determined to force him out of the door, confident that with his sparse NHL resumé the notoriously conservative NHL GM fraternity won't consider taking a chance of even a minor deal to prise him away and end his Hogtown hell.
This leaves a perfect opportunity for any team looking to upgrade their defensive corps on the cheap. Do we know any around here?
Frank Corrado is good. He is, in fact, better than several players suiting up for the Bruins night after night when it comes to defensive play. Here he is vs Adam McQuaid, for example.
Adam McQuaid is being paid five times what Frank Corrado is, and Corrado is better in almost every conceivable category. Look at that shot suppression gap (McQuaid's is shaded just over the halfway point on his graph) Look at how much better Corrado is both with the puck and without (both shot generation and suppression are ridiculously skewed in his favour,
Ah, the cynics say, we all know McQuaid is horrible. Anybody can be made to look good by cherrypicking their opponent. Let's see Corrado against some other players, shall we?
OK. Here he is against J-M Liles.
Whilst we can see that Liles is the more productive offensively by quite some distance in terms of actually getting points before his injury, Corrado is once again comparable when it comes to shot suppression, generates more shots and is slightly better in possession than a player who's considered to be playing at the level of a "complete top four defenseman.
OK, you say...maybe there's something there. But you're still not convinced. After all, Mike Babcock is widely considered one of the best coaches in the NHL's modern era. If he doesn't think the kid is good enough, there must be a reason, right?
Well, maybe this comparison will interest you. On the left is Corrado. On the other side is another NHL top-four defenseman who is considered key to his team at both ends of the ice.
As you can see, while the other player is clearly better offensively, Corrado is not a million miles away while in possession, and when it comes to the defensive aspect of the game, the forgotten Leaf is considerably better.
The player on the other side, in case you're wondering, is Torey Krug.
What Boston have in Frank Corrado, should they wish to use him, is a second-pair defensive player who is better in his own end than half of their current defense and light-years better than one second-pair D-man in possession while comparable to the other (who is generally considered the top possession defenseman for the B's, by the way), while being paid a fifth of the wage of both of their current second pair.
What would you give for that player, Bruins fans? You'd probably give a decent amount, wouldn't you?
Corrado, though, doesn't need to be had for a decent amount. Peter Holland is another player who fell victim to the Babcock freeze in Toronto. As a comparable, Holland's price was a conditional sixth-round draft pick. Or, to put it another way...pretty much nothing in NHL terms.
If Boston get on the phone to the Leafs, they're in a position where an enquiry could net them a young hungry player with a massive point to prove, on a minimum-risk contract that will barely make a dent in their cap space. For almost no outlay, the Bruins could make a potentially major gain. One that, if all the cards fall even half as well as they could, could be looked upon in a few years as absolute robbery.
Nobody is going to guarantee that Frank Corrado is automatically going to turn into the next Bobby Orr (that would be utterly ridiculous). But what the lost Leaf has is potential in large amounts - potential that he has already started to show and simply not been given the chance to build upon in Toronto. Corrado is on the outside looking in in Leafs-land with seemingly no prospect of ever forcing his way in and the Leafs might be tempted to take what they can for a player they consider practically valueless.
Trading for him is the very definition of a "no-risk, massive reward" move for the Bruins. If the trade doesn't work out brilliantly, then the Bruins have another decent depth defenseman for a year for the loss of a conditional late-round pick or two and minimal financial outlay.
But if it does, they've just acquired a 23-year-old whose play so far is comparable (defensively, at least) to one of the top players on their blueline - one in Torey Krug who is widely viewed as one of the B's cornerstones. A 23-year-old who is all that and also has something major to prove to the rest of the NHL, which means motivation is unlikely to be an issue.
And they've done it for nothing, purely by giving a young defenseman being shabbily treated by his current team and coach a chance.
That's the kind of robbery of the Leafs that will make even IT WAS FOUR ONE look pale in comparison.
All it will take is a little willing.