Toronto Maple Leafs netminder Jack Campbell is one of the nicest guys in the business. His happy-go-lucky attitude is contagious for the team while his play in the crease has been frustrating opponents. “Soup” has heard his name called plenty of times early on this season and it’s because he’s been absolutely rock solid. His strong performance early on this season is a great sign for Toronto as he’s proving, once again, he’s ready for prime time.
When Campbell was acquired via trade with the Los Angeles Kings back in 2019-20 it was to be a backup to Frederik Andersen who was cemented as the No. 1 netminder in Toronto. All Campbell’s done ever since is go 22-5-4, and set multiple franchise and league records. Andersen is, of course, out, and Petr Mrazek is in, but at this very moment it’s the “Jack Campbell Show.” Get used to it, Leafs Nation; Campbell won’t be giving up the starting duties anytime soon.
Campbell Off to Blazing Start in 2021-22
With Mrazek going down in his first appearance during the Maple Leafs’ second game this season, it’s propelled Campbell to play in every game so far. The 29-year-old has done nothing but shine. He’s currently sitting with a 1.18 goals-against average and a .953 save percentage, which puts him in the top-five in the NHL for goalies who have played at least two games. Early, sure, but a great sign for the Maple Leafs. There’s a ton of pressure on him to perform right now. Not only because he’s a goalie in Toronto, but the fact is Michael Hutchinson is backing him up and the team needs Campbell now more than ever, as the options, as mentioned, are limited.
I was in attendance for opening night and one thing I noticed early and often was the fact that Campbell seems to be reading the play and seeing the puck better than ever before. Remind yourselves, he was 18-24-4 his last two seasons with the Kings and didn’t come to Toronto a finished product. He was a highly touted first-round pick and someone who had bounced around a little bit waiting for his opportunity, but more importantly his play, to do the talking. While Campbell loves to gab, his play at the moment is speaking loud and clear to the entire league.
Campbell Cares About His Teammates
Ask emergency backup goalie Alex Bishop about his experience dressing one game for the Maple Leafs and it’s a guarantee he’ll bring up how much love Campbell showed him during their time together. Not only was he supportive upon arrival for Bishop, during the game’s stoppage last Saturday night against the Ottawa Senators, Campbell made sure to skate over and check in on his new backup buddy. It’s something Bishop couldn’t believe as during the game Campbell was focused on how Bishop was feeling — it says everything you need to know about the person “Soup” is.
Toronto Tandem Approach Currently on Hold
When Mrazek was signed this past offseason, it was to share the duties in net. Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas targeted Mrazek out of Carolina based on the fact he had experience sharing the crease with another goalie, but also had some time in Detroit where he was the clear-cut number one. It always felt like it was still going to be Campbell’s net to lose and as we’ve seen it all play out early on this season, this tandem approach could easily be turning into more of a starter vs. backup type of tandem.
If he continues to shine during Mrazek’s injury, don’t expect to see head coach Sheldon Keefe shy away from playing Campbell more. The Red Lobster-loving goaltender is currently playing at the pinnacle of his career and it looks like he’s only going to get better. Don’t expect him to stop 95 percent of the shots he’s facing on a nightly basis, but Leafs Nation should realize not only do they have an elite offensive team, they have an elite starting netminder. This is something that hasn’t been said in Toronto for many years. Andersen was good, but he was never looking this good. When it’s all said and done this season, there’s becoming a very good chance you could hear “Soup” being chanted during the awards season.
Campbell Motivated to Win and Secure a Long-Term Contract
The Port Huron, Michigan native is in the final season of his current contract, paying him $1.65 million on the cap. Campbell’s set to hit unrestricted free agency next summer and if he ends up having a magical season statistically, he’s going to be in line for a huge pay day.
There’s been some rumblings about the Cal Petersen contract with the Los Angeles Kings at three years and $15 million total as a good comparison, and to me, that’s only a starting point. If I was Campbell, I would wait until season’s end to see where the chips lie for my next contract. If I was Dubas and company, I would be making him multi-year offers every other week during the season as the price is only going up.
Campbell is off to a hot start this season and his game looks better than ever. The keys to the Maple Leafs’ crease are in his hands, and as it looks right now, don’t expect him to be slowing down anytime soon. He’s becoming the most important player for the team and when it’s all said and done this season, the goaltender could be in the conversation with Auston Matthews as the Maple Leafs’ best player.
Shane covers any and everything to do with the Toronto Maple Leafs & Pittsburgh Penguins. A constant contributor to the THW family, his passion and unique perspective on the game results in some diverse content. Certainly versatile, you can also find him contributing at NHLTradeRumors.me, BaseballRumors.me & BBallRumors.com. Follow along on Twitter @ShugMcSween