Meet the Newest Leaf

William Wilson January 14, 2013 6
Mike Mottau playing for the New York IslandersPhoto by Bruce Bennett

In one of his first moves as GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Dave Nonis signed veteran defenceman Mike Mottau to a one-year, two-way contract.

The Leafs are the sixth NHL team to call upon the 34-year-old’s services. He has previously played for the New York Rangers, Calgary Flames, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders and Boston Bruins.

Mottau has played a total of 313 games at the NHL level, collecting 58 points (7 goals, 51 assists) in the process. He enjoyed a career season in 2009-2010 when he registered 18 points (2 goals, 16 assists) with the Devils.

Hailing from Avon, Massachusetts, the addition of the 6 foot, 193 lbs. rearguard helps to provide the Leafs some flexibility at the blueline.

The Leafs currently have six regular defenceman on their roster – captain Dion Phaneuf, Carl Gunnarsson, Mike Komisarek, Cody Franson (?), John-Michael Liles and Jake Gardiner – as a consequence of the Luke Schenn trade for James van Riemsdyk during the off-season. Mottau could potentially sit (in the press box) as the team’s seventh defenceman. However, there’s no guarantee the position will just be handed to him.

Despite the Leafs’ many weak points, defence is the one position where there is some signs of depth on the team. Mottau will likely find himself competing against players half his age for the chance to crack the big club’s roster.

Young players like Morgan Rielly and Korbinian Holzer could just as easily fill the spot. Working in their favour, both of these players carry more offensive upside than Mottau, but the Leafs could also be looking for a veteran presence, which they obviously lack.

Having said this, the potential absence of Gardiner for any prolonged period of time due to continuing concussion symptoms adds an unexpected element of uncertainty. As a result, it’s conceivable that Mottau and one of Rielly or Holzer could make the Leafs’ opening day roster.

Both the Marlies and the Leafs are relatively young so Mottau’s experience could help either team. Ultimately, it might make better sense to expose Rielly and Holzer to some real NHL hockey action in a shortened season, but given the importance of every game, it’s equally necessary to guard the inevitable mistakes of youth. In this respect, Mottau is the easy bet to make the Leafs.

Notwithstanding where he finds himself this season, Mottau is only three teams short of playing for all six original teams. This, in itself, is quite an accomplishment and a testament to his appeal/age.

Follow me on Twitter for regular posts about sports, politics and other news topics: @williamefwilson