Last season, the Toronto Maple Leafs set a franchise record for points (115) and wins (a 54-21-7 record). It was the best point percentage in the Maple Leafs’ long history. Can they do it again this season? Or, can they even come close?
One big question is the goaltending. Will it be as good as last season?
That’s a good question because basically for the Maple Leafs it’s been out with the old and in with the new. The two main goalies from last season have moved on, and two new goalies have taken their place.
Reviewing Last Season in Goal
Last season, at the start of the season, the goalies were an issue for the Maple Leafs. Although Jack Campbell had jumped in when Frederik Andersen was injured the year before and set an NHL record for starting the season with 10 straight victories, still the goaltending was a big enough concern that the team brought in veteran goalie Petr Mrazek.
Mrazek’s Play on the Season
In fact, the Maple Leafs signed Mrazek to a three-year, $11.4 million deal in the offseason. The plan was to have a goalie 1A (Campbell) and goalie 1B (Mrazek). It seemed at the time that having Mrazek would be great insurance for the team. Mrazek could be the “backup” in the tandem; or, if Campbell got into trouble, he could jump into the starting role.
It didn’t work that way. What could go wrong for Mrazek did go wrong. He was injured in his first game and never really found his form.
Mrazek did post a record of 12-6-0, which seems decent. However, his goals against average (3.34) and his save percentage (.888) in 20 games were simply not good enough. The team bailed him out with its strong offense.
Campbell’s Play on the Season
Maple Leafs’ fans seem to point a finger at Mrazek for being a disaster in goal; but, when a close look is taken, Campbell was far from perfect. During the first part of the season, Campbell was gold. In fact, the word was that he would be a contender for the Vezina Trophy. He even made the NHL All-Star team.
However, from the beginning of December until the middle of March, Campbell hit a huge funk. He put together a 16-5-4 record, but that solid-looking record had much to do with the fact that the Maple Leafs were a strong team. His goals-against-average of 3.45 GAA and his .889 save percentage tell the real story.
When Campbell and Mrazek Moved the Maple Leafs Needed Goalies
The Maple Leafs were able to trade Mrazek to the Chicago Blackhawks on Day 1 of the draft. On Day 1 of free agency, Campbell signed with the Edmonton Oilers. Suddenly, the Maple Leafs needed two goalies. They traded for Matt Murray, who had been in Ottawa. Then, they signed Ilya Samsonov, who had not been qualified by the Washington Capitals.
The 28-year-old Murray had an up-and-down season in 2021-22, but he brings with him a resume that includes two Stanley Cup victories. As noted, Samsonov didn’t have enough of an upside to “force” the Capitals to tender him a qualifying offer. Still, he’s only 25 years old, and he was once touted as a highly-valued prospect.
Both goalies will be motivated to reclaim their careers; and, given the strength of the Maple Leafs as a team, there’s a good chance they can do that. As noted above, although both Campbell and Mrazek ended the season with good win/loss records, their statistics told a truer story.
The truth is that it might be just as easy to expect similar – or even stronger – goalie play from the two newcomers than was the case with Campbell and Mrazek. Maple Leafs’ fans won’t know until the season starts.
Although the Goalie Situation Is Unsettled Right Now, There’s a Good Chance it Could Be Improved
Still, the situation is unsetteled until it’s seen how Murray and Samsonov perform. There remain real question marks. Both goalies are still young (28 and 25). Both are eager to show they can have bounceback seasons.
The fact is that, if the Maple Leafs gets solid – it doesn’t have to be elite – goalie play, the strength of the team once again should be able to cover for the odd deficiency or mistake that’s made in the net. Last season, the Maple Leafs’ Toronto’s goaltending was questionable. It isn’t much different this season.
What should Maple Leafs’ fans expect? They probably should expect about the same as last season. That said, the two new goalies could be much better. Who knows?
The one thing that’s probably accurate is that there’s a good chance the goalie play won’t be worse than last season. And, in the end, that’s probably a positive. The 2022-23 season will be interesting.
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