As the Toronto Maple Leafs head into the beginning of the 2021-22 regular season, there are a number of unanswered questions about the team’s goalie situation. In this post, I want to look at four of these questions.
Obviously, the answers are still to be worked out during training camp and as the regular season progresses.
Related: Bruins and Maple Leafs Both Show Interest in P.K. Subban Trade
Question One: How Good Is Jack Campbell Really?
The 2020-21 regular season changed so many things for the Maple Leafs. The team entered the season with long-time starter Frederik Andersen ready to resume his pattern of starting most of the games the team played. Then he got hurt and amazingly career-backup goalie Jack Campbell jumped to the pump and played well. And, by that I mean historically well.
For a franchise that’s been around for more than 100 seasons, no one has started a season with the winning streak Campbell put together. But Campbell went well past that. He set an NHL record for victories to begin a season. He became the first goalie in NHL history to win his first 11 games in a season.
The question for this upcoming season is just how good Campbell will be during his second season as a starter. Can he continue that stretch of good play now that he’s the undisputed number one guy?
Question Two: How will Campbell Handle a Losing Steak?
Although Campbell was injured, and that was something both he and the team had to deal with, what he hasn’t yet dealt with is a losing streak of any magnitude. There’s a good chance that Maple Leafs’ fans are likely to see how he’ll handle adversity this season. It would be tough to go for another long stretch of win after win again as he did last season; well, perhaps, but unlikely.
As well the team is scheduled to play a full season of 82 games, and fans will find out how Campbell can do over that kind of an extended stretch. Can he remain healthy? Can he handle the pressure that comes with being relied upon for a fuller season? What happens when he hits his first losing streak?
Last season was amazing for him, and his biggest losing streak was three games during the playoffs. How will he survive and prosper over a longer season?
Question Three: Is Petr Mrazek the Great 1B He Seems to Be?
The team brought in goalie Petr Mrazek to both push Campbell and to serve as a partner with him. Mrazek has been a starter; but, he also knows that he’ll likely be in partnership with Campbell. His reputation is that he’s a good tandem goalie. Will he be?
How will that partnership work out? What kind of a rotation will the tandem play? Will they put “good” pressure on each other to be better in net? Both seem to have positive personalities; do they?
Question Four: How Will Head Coach Sheldon Keefe Handle the Change in Goalie Philosophy?
I have to believe that, by bringing in Mrazek, the organizational philosophy about goalie deployment has also changed. It truly will be a 1A and a 1B situation. That just doesn’t put changes on the goalies; it also puts changes on the coaching.
Head coach Sheldon Keefe has to change how he coaches as well. How will Keefe handle the difference between throwing Andersen into the net game after game and having a more partnered rotation?
Anderson was always been “the guy” until Campbell took over as the guy. Then, he was “the guy.” How will Keefe coach the situation? How does one goalie “earn” the primary position in the partnership? What will Campbell and Mrazek look like as a rotation?
Related: Does Maple Leafs’ Matthews Believe Hockey Can Survive in Arizona?
Looking Forward to the 2021-22 Regular Season
Those are at least four of the goalie story lines as the 2020-21 regular season moves towards us all as Maple Leafs’ fans.
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September 7, 2021 at 7:57 am
Mrazek has a NMC – so he will play his fair share in order to show he deserved this contract term and move restriction.
What happens if Campbell plays well and earns a new contract at least at Mrazek level?
Two Options Will Result.
1: trade Campbell as the TML will not be able to afford him
2: sign him and move one of the big four in order to afford him. I imagine it may be Willi as his contract is the most digestible even though it is MM that should go.
If the leafs believed in Campbell why didn’t they sign Cup winning goalie Holtby to be a solid backup for 2m instead.? Imagine what the leafs could have done with the 1.8M in cap plus the Kerfoot 3.5M.
September 7, 2021 at 4:40 pm
I agree that the plan is for Mrazek to play his fair share of games, but his NMC is a modified NMC where he can submit a list of 10 teams. I don’t know how they plan on handling it, with planned starts or go with the hot hand. If Mrazek does struggle the Leafs can’t afford to keep putting him in the net.
Unless Mrazek completely bombs, I do agree that if Campbell is better his starting ask is more than Mrazek. If it is not too outrageous the Leafs will find cap room for him.
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