It’s been a few weeks since the rumours surfaced that the Toronto Maple Leafs were shopping goaltender Frederik Andersen. I refused to write about it or even give it a second thought. Why? I’d like to think this franchise has more class than trading away a team backbone and a fan-favourite just to bring in yet another name. I’d like to believe that the Maple Leafs’ front office is a little bit smarter than looking at this team and identifying Andersen as a problem. Quite frankly, I just expect better.
Yeah, yeah, I get it – this is a business. Players come and go. Money talks and players walk, right? Sure, but when it makes sense for the franchise and the player. This makes no sense. The Leafs identifying Andersen as the problem is like blaming the grass for messing up the weeds growing in my lawn.
How Soon We Forget
Let’s remember the goalie situation in Toronto before acquiring Andersen from the Anaheim Ducks. The disastrous 2015-16 season. The first season with head coach Mike Babcock and the roster’s full teardown. A move that tanked the team but resulted in getting the first overall pick, Auston Matthews. Jonathan Bernier, James Reimer and Garret Sparks were the triple threat in the net. By triple, I mean teams scored an average of three goals a game against the Leafs. Toronto allowed the fourth-most goals in the league at 246. The goal differential was minus-48, good for second last in the league. Toronto finished with just 69 points, which was dead last in the NHL.
If it hadn’t been for the Anaheim Ducks’ goalie situation, there wouldn’t have been an opportunity to get Andersen in Toronto. The emergence of John Gibson for the Ducks made Andersen expendable. Andersen was older and was due to become a restricted free agent. This mammoth of a man, 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds, was the real deal. He was a big part of the Ducks deep playoff runs and had won the William M. Jennings Trophy.
The Leafs sent first and second-round picks to Anaheim to get the Danish netminder. Andersen signed a five-year extension worth $25 million that day. Toronto’s future between the pipes was answered. He had a rough start, as a new team full of rookies and new additions struggled to find their footing. But soon, Andersen started to steal the show, quite often the chant “Freddie, Freddie” was a familiar sound during Leafs games.
Workhorse, Fan-Favourite, Leader
Luckily, Andersen had only ever played more than 50 games in a season once before arriving in Toronto. The Maple Leafs was going to get every minute out of him, playing him in 66 games in his first and second seasons, 60 in his third and 52 in the COVID-shortened season. He has been the workhorse, playing behind a team that thinks offence first, second and third and suffers far too many defensive lapses. The Maple Leafs had made such a mess of the budget they could not even afford a quality backup goalie.
Alright, back to the “it’s just business, nothing personal” argument. I’d give you that if there was a goalie out there who was an upgrade. Maybe there is, but he certainly isn’t going to cost $5 million or less. And this is personal. We all know about the bromance between Matthews and Andersen. Sure, if Andersen left, Matthews would say all the right things, “it’s the tough part of the business, we will miss him, and we wish him the best of luck.” I’m sure he will say that in front of the camera and on social media. But, I seriously doubt he’d be happy about the team trading away his buddy for no apparent reason.
Again, there is no reason to trade Freddie. Suppose Andersen was on a team that wasn’t learning how to play defence two weeks before the playoffs, a team with some defencemen, and a team that invested in a backup goalie. In that case, I’m sure he’d have more trophies and maybe even the biggest prize of them all.
Toronto, I’m looking at you. Brendan Shanahan and Kyle Dubas – you owe Andersen an apology. You didn’t give him what he needed to be successful. Then, you might as well have spit in his face by floating rumours about trading him. It’s shameful and disrespectful, and now it sets a precedent for how Toronto treats its players.
Kevin Armstrong is an award-winning journalist with more than two decades of experience. He’s been rink side for World Juniors, Memorial Cups, Calder Cups and Stanley Cups. Like many Canadian kids, his earliest memories include hockey. Kevin has spent countless hours in arenas throughout the country watching all levels of the game.