Yesterday, I wrote what I thought would be a tribute to Frederik Andersen, who was the Toronto Maple Leafs’ starting goaltender for five seasons. In that post, I reviewed the records Andersen had set when he was with the Maple Leafs to suggest that he should be remembered as one of the best goalies in the history of the franchise.
In fact, to my mind, for all his playoff warts, Andersen has been an outstanding goalie in his time with the team. He played big minutes season after season, especially during his first three seasons in Toronto. During the 2018-19 season, he set the record for the most wins during a single season in franchise history with 38. Although he played a tremendous number of games for the team – more than 60 games each season in his first three – the most games he lost during a season was 21. That low number doesn’t even rank him in the top ten for any season he played.
However, my post seemed to stir up a hornet’s nest. Although some fans were supporters of Andersen and like me will remember him well, those commenters on my post were by far the fewest. In fact, over and over the comments’ section disagreed with my analysis of Andersen as “one of the best goalies” in Maple Leafs’ history.
What Was Andersen’s Problem in the Eyes of the Fans?
In general, fans didn’t argue with me about Andersen’s regular-season record, which I extolled in my post. But the issue fans had was that he could never lead the team to a postseason series win. Repeatedly, fans said basically the same thing – Andersen wasn’t able to perform when it counted the most – during the playoffs.
A Sample of Fans’ Comments
Here’s a sample of some of the comments (I edited them for length).
Comment One: “Sorry Old Prof, but Anderson couldn’t get it done when it counted and I expect the same from his replacement, but as long as y’all (Leafs’ diehard fans) love those regular season wins on the way to the playoff gag, everything looks good for a repeat, if they make the playoffs.”
Comment Two: “Only 13th in losses.” He was tops in game seven meltdowns. You can win 80 of 82 games, but that means nothing if you can’t even win a single playoff round.”
Comment Three: “Freddy is average at best, until the playoffs, where he reverts back to AHL quality.”
Comment Four: “Fact #5: Zero playoff series wins as a Leaf. The only stat that really counts. When the pressure was on, he choked.” [Note: I had listed four facts that I believed made Andersen a great Maple Leafs’ goalie; this fan added his own fact five.]
Comment Five: “Andersen failed plain and simple. He – himself – did not win that 1 game to get us to the next round … it was time for him to move on.”
Comment Six: “He was above avgerage. But you need to stop the pucks that matter the most.”
Comment Seven: I’ll remember Freddy as a decent Leaf goalie! He made big saves and stole games now and then. I’ll also remember he forgot that the season starts at the end of September not mid-late November!”
Comment Eight: “Never won a big game. Probably the worst big game record of all.”
Comment Nine: “Pretty good regular season goalie, not so much in the playoffs… all the best to him!”
Wrapping Up the Comments
One fan summarized the tenor of Maple Leafs’ fans well when he noted. “Unfortunately, goalies are ultimately judged by playoff success – that rare ability to put a team on their back and go on a deep playoff run. Does anyone care about Billy Smiths regular season numbers? No, because come playoff time he took his game to the next level and was lights out.”
The fan added, “Grant Fuhr, never a great goalie statistically, might give up 5 in a playoff game; but, if it was 5-5 in the 3rd there was no way he was giving up the 6th. That sort of mental strength was never evident in Andersen and the fact is he was the 2nd best goalie in every playoff series he appeared in.”
So, Where Does this Put Andersen’s Legacy?
Fans are correct. The truth is that Andersen was NOT a strong playoff performer, but neither was the team in front of him. I appreciate the fans’ addition to my analysis; however, I remain steadfast in my belief that Andersen’s regular-season’s record STILL puts him as “one of the best of all-time.”
I want to thank readers for adding the additional perspective I should have included – and I now am. Although I believe playoff performance matters, I don’t believe the playoffs are the end all and be all. I think a great goaltender is a great goaltender regardless of playoff success. Andersen struggled in the postseason, but the Maple Leafs entire team also struggled. No one performed well. They lost as a team, and not just because of Andersen.
I probably shouldn’t have been surprised at the reaction of my post. I believe it speaks to the higher expectations Maple Leafs’ fans have come to place on this team – something Stan Smith and I wrote about last week. I continue to believe Andersen will be seen as one of the best goalies in Maple Leafs’ history – playoff performances aside. Yes, fans are right: he (and the team) didn’t perform as well as they could have.
Andersen did let in a soft goal or two, for example against the Columbus Blue Jackets. However, the team just couldn’t score when it needed to. Because Andersen’s tenure with the team is recent and time generally improves our opinions about players, I trust that Andersen will be remembered well. That said, I could be wrong.
Thanking the Readers and Fans
As always, I see the posts I write as a space for conversation. I’ve often have said – and continue to say – how much I appreciate the fans who read my posts because they teach me a lot about the team that I cover. This time the fans went one further – they let me know (no one was mean-spirited or nasty about their comments) – that they disagreed with my analysis.
That’s the way it should be. I’m not going to change my mind about Andersen being remembered as a great Maple Leafs’ goalie. But, I’m certain that fans won’t change their minds about what they think of him either.
That’s the way it should be. Hockey’s a great game. It’s also a space for conversation and opinion. I want to thank my readers for adding to the conversation about Frederik Andersen’s legacy as a Maple Leafs’ goalie of record.
The Old Prof (Jim Parsons, Sr.) taught for more than 40 years in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. He’s a Canadian boy, who has two degrees from the University of Kentucky and a doctorate from the University of Texas. He is now retired on Vancouver Island, where he lives with his family. His hobbies include playing with his hockey cards and simply being a sports fan – hockey, the Toronto Raptors, and CFL football (thinks Ricky Ray personifies how a professional athlete should act).
If you wonder why he doesn’t use his real name, it’s because his son – who’s also Jim Parsons – wrote for The Hockey Writers first and asked Jim Sr. to use another name so readers wouldn’t confuse their work.
Because Jim Sr. had worked in China, he adopted the Mandarin word for teacher (老師). The first character lǎo (老) means “old,” and the second character shī (師) means “teacher.” The literal translation of lǎoshī is “old teacher.” That became his pen name. Today, other than writing for The Hockey Writers, he teaches graduate students research design at several Canadian universities.
He looks forward to sharing his insights about the Toronto Maple Leafs and about how sports engages life more fully. His Twitter address is https://twitter.com/TheOldProf