Every Toronto Maple Leafs’ fan is familiar with the team’s goalie situation, and how it has progressed over the past five-plus seasons. After a decade that saw the Maple Leafs dress over 20 goalies, on June 20, 2016, the organization signed Frederik Andersen to a five-year $25 million contract. That signing started a run of the team’s success.
In the five years after his signing, Andersen posted a record of 149-74-36, a save percentage of .914, and a goals-against-average of 2.74. He was by far the best goalie to play for the Maple Leafs since the advent of the salary cap in 2004, and he brought badly needed stability to the net.
Jack Campbell Comes to Town as a Back-up
On February 6, 2020, the Maple Leafs traded Trevor Moore and two third-round picks to the Los Angeles Kings for 28-year-old goalie Jack Campbell and Kyle Clifford (who’s recently and happily returned to town two weeks ago). In six games that season Campbell posted a 3-2-1 record with a save percentage of .915 and a goals-against-average of 2.63. In the following offseason, the organization signed Campbell to a two-year deal at $1.65 million a season.
Campbell started the 2020-21 season as the backup goalie but went on to set a new NHL record for consecutive wins by a goalie to start a season, posting an 11–0 record. By the end of the regular season, Campbell had compiled a 17-3-2 record with a save percentage of .943 SV% and a goals-against-average of 1.68. Those statistics compared favorably to Andersen’s 13-8-3 record, a save percentage of .895, and a goals-against-average of 2.96.
Campbell Was the Starter During the 2020-21 Postseason
Campbell, rightfully so, beat out Andersen, who was just returning from an injury, for the starting job for the 2020-21 playoffs. No Maple Leafs’ fan will soon forget what happened to the team. After going up by three games to one in the series, in the end, it was another disappointing loss in the first round of the playoffs to the Montreal Canadiens.
Actually, to call it disappointing is a massive understatement. Devastating is likely a better word.
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But that loss wasn’t on Campbell alone. Despite the loss, Campbell played extremely well, allowing only 13 goals in seven games and posting a save percentage of .934 and a goals-against-average of 1.81. The first-round loss was definitely not his fault.
During the Offseason, The Maple Leafs Had to Choose
Then came the offseason. Despite Andersen saying all the right things about wanting to remain a Maple Leafs’ player and the organization saying all the right things about wanting to retain Andersen, a deal never materialized. Curiously, Andersen signed with the Carolina Hurricanes for two years at a very reasonable $4.5 million a season, a deal the Maple Leafs could have easily matched because it was only $700,000 more than the average-annual-salary on the contract they signed with Petr Mrazek.
If the Maple Leafs were to have signed Andersen for that exact same deal, Maple Leafs’ fans would have all been cheering Andersen for taking a home-team discount. Most Toronto fans expected him to sign for much more. Needless to say, it appears that despite everything everyone involved was saying, one side or the other felt it was time Andersen moved on.
Comparing Andersen and Campbell One-Fourth Through the Season
Flash forward to the current 2020-21 regular season. Both goalies are almost neck-and-neck at the top of the NHL’s goalie leader board. Matching their numbers against each other shows the following:
Because both goalies are playing well and because of the reasonable deal Andersen signed with the Hurricanes, some fans and writers, including my The Hockey Writers’ colleague Kevin Armstrong, are claiming the Maple Leafs made a mistake in not re-signing Andersen.
Should the Maple Leafs Have Resigned Andersen?
Is it true that the Maple Leafs erred in not re-signing Andersen? Perhaps it is; but, perhaps, signing Andersen would have changed everything. Had Andersen re-signed, it’s likely fans would have not seen the recent emergence of the 23-year-old rookie goalie Joseph Woll. Or, if they would have seen Woll, it would have been a repeat of the 2020-21 season when Andersen was injured. Someone would have been out nursing an injury.
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Of course, Maple Leafs’ fans will never know. An Andersen/Campbell duo could have given the Maple Leafs the best one-two-goalie punch in the NHL. On the other hand, If Andersen would have re-signed with the team and – assuming he would not have been injured – the two goalies had split the starts 50-50, would they have both been this good?
Would Andersen have been happy knowing he might only start 41 games this season and could sit out the playoffs again? Or, would he still want to go to a team where he knew he would be the undisputed number one?
We Believe the Maple Leafs Made the Right Call on Keeping Campbell
The truth is that we like both goalies and think they’ve been great additions to the team and its history. That said, we have to ask, does it really matter? Would Maple Leafs’ fans be happier had Andersen re-signed? Would the team have been better?
As good as Andersen was for the Maple Leafs in comparison to the 20-some goalies who passed through the organization’s net during the previous decade, Campbell’s been even better. The Maple Leafs are off to a terrific season and are tied at 31 points for first place with the Florida Panthers in the Atlantic Division at the time of this writing. Campbell has been a huge part of that rise to prominence.
Meanwhile, further south in North Carolina, the Hurricanes also have 31 points. Andersen has been a huge part of that success. The parting of ways between the Maple Leafs and Freddy Andersen has worked out great for both parties, at least to this point of the season. Obviously, snake-bit Maple Leafs’ fans are expecting that an iceberg is coming in the night.
Maybe Maple Leafs’ fans should be happy for their own team and also happy for Andersen, their team’s former goalie. In looking at it from both sides, we’ve come to believe it might be best to leave it at that and simply be happy with how it all turned out.
We’re glad Campbell stayed at home; Andersen found a home; and, the Maple Leafs are working hard to win back their hometown fans. We are so enjoying watching Woll play.
[Note: I want to thank long-time Maple Leafs’ fan Stan Smith for collaborating with me on this post. Stan’s Facebook profile can be found here.]
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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