During the summer, the Toronto Maple Leafs went out and got Frederik Andersen as their new starting goalie. They signed Andersen for five years, so there is no question that he will be the one leading the Leafs in net. So far this season, the problem for the Leafs has been games when Andersen isn’t in net. The Leafs have a few options for the backup role, but none seem to fit the team’s expectations.
Jhonas Enroth was the Leafs’ backup goalie to start the season, but now he’s been relegated to the American Hockey League with the Toronto Marlies. Enroth was the Leafs’ best option as backup during the summer when looking at the alternatives for the role. Enroth only played six games and started in four of those before being sent through waivers and down to the AHL. Enroth played well in those four games, despite losing every game.
The way that coach Mike Babcock deployed Enroth was the reason for those losses. Each game that Enroth started was the second game in a back-to-back series. The problem in that comes from the Leafs having no jump to their game by being tired from the game the night before, which resulted in many defensive breakdowns.
This meant the Leafs didn’t give Enroth any support. In six games, Enroth had a 3.94 goals against average and a .872 save percentage. Don’t let those awful stats mislead you, Enroth managed to play well when the rest of the team didn’t show up.
Right now it looks like Enroth will play the rest of the season with the Marlies, unless the Leafs have a reason to call him back up. Enroth did manage to find his first win of the season with the Marlies and allowed three goals.
When looking at Enroth’s time with the Leafs, don’t think of it as a pity because backup goalies know that they need to come in cold and win some games while the starter rests. That’s just part of the role. Instead, look at Enroth as a warning to any other backup goalie option for the Leafs.
Karri Ramo looks to be the Leafs’ next option for the backup role after waiving Enroth.
Karri Ramo has signed an ATO with the Toronto Marlies
— Kristen Shilton (@kristen_shilton) December 6, 2016
Ramo spent the start of the season practicing with the Leafs as a way of recovering from an injury and getting back in shape. Once he was medically cleared and Enroth was demoted, the Leafs signed him to a tryout contract with the Marlies. This will give Ramo a few games before, most likely, signing with the Leafs.
The problem now is that the Leafs might be a bit hesitant after the two games Ramo played with the Marlies. Ramo has lost both games he’s played and has allowed seven goals with a 3.60 goals against average and a .879 save percentage. Statistically, the AHL is harder on goalies because of how much of a higher scoring league it is compared to the NHL.
It’s fair to say that it’s too early to judge Ramo and that he needs some time to settle in. The same can be said of Enroth, but the Leafs showed that they have no patience for backup goalies and that they need to be ready immediately or else it’ll cost them their job.
Ramo needs to impress in his next few games with the Marlies or else the Leafs might just release Ramo from his tryout contract and find someone else.
That someone else could be Antoine Bibeau. Bibeau was recently called up after the Leafs sent Enroth down to the AHL. The Leafs gave Bibeau a chance to play on Sunday against the Colorado Avalanche. The Leafs played well, but ultimately lost 3-1 even though they had 52 shots on net.
Bibeau looked shaky at a few points, but ended up playing well and was overall solid in goal. Bibeau came away with a 2.11 goals against average and a .929 save percentage. One game might be too early to say, but Bibeau might be the best option for the Leafs.
Bibeau has played three seasons in the AHL with the Marlies and has arguably been their best goalie in that time. The only concern with Bibeau is his consistency issues. He was named goalie of the month of October in the AHL, but only had one win in seven games in November. Bibeau has six wins in 13 games and a 2.54 goals against average and a .907 save percentage.
The Leafs need to find a reliable backup goalie to Andersen because they need to be able to get some wins while resting him. If they can’t, it will result in Andersen playing more games than he should, which could mean Andersen will be tired more often and at a higher risk of injury.
And Andersen getting injured is the last thing the Leafs need.
Toronto Maple Leafs contributor for The Hockey Writers.
I’ve been a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs since I was a kid and have always had an interest in writing. At The Hockey Writers, I get to enjoy both of my passions as well as writing about small convoluted details in player contracts and stats.