Tonight’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Winnipeg Jets is going to be one team of missing players meeting another team of missing players. The Jets will be missing both Kyle Connor and Nate Schmidt for the second straight game. Both Connor and Schmidt tested positive for COVID-19. The Maple Leafs will be without goalie Petr Mrazek and likely both Justin Holl and Ilya Lyubushkin after injuries suffered in their last games.
Connor is the Jets’ offensive leader. He has 41 goals and 41 assists (for 82 points on the season). They will miss him. However, the Maple Leafs’ lineup will in be a bit of a blender. It will be interesting to see if any young defensemen step into the game to get their NHL debuts.
In this edition of Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll take a look at the organization’s goalie situation and some of the changes the team must make to try to remedy it. I’ll also take a look at some of the goalie news that’s emerging from the team and consider the implications of both injuries and news for the near future.
Item One: Where Will the Maple Leafs Goaltending Come From?
During the 6-4 win over the Boston Bruins, Mrazek hurt his groin yet again and is expected to “miss some time.” Mrazek didn’t even last a period in Tuesday’s game before he had to retire with his recurring injury. Interestingly, after playing so poorly that he was put on waivers by the team, he had found his game and played two good games in a row.
Since Mrazek has already missed time this season with a groin injury, if it’s anything like the last one he could be out weeks. Erik Kallgren came in a won the game for the team and looked solid in the process.
After the game, Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe noted the obvious when he said, “Obviously we already have Jack [Campbell] out. To see that (Mrazek’s injury) is tough.”
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Keefe then noted that Mrazek “was getting some traction here and had been playing well, so it’s tough. But he’s been through these kinds of things before. We don’t know the severity of it. We’ll have a greater sense of what the situation is in the coming days, but it looks like he’s going to miss some time.”
As noted, Kallgren finished the game in relief; however, it looks as if the Maple Leafs will be forced to bring up another goalie from the minors. That goalie looks to be the veteran Michael Hutchinson. The only “if” in this situation is how ready Campbell might be to return from his rib injury. From the outside, we only know he’s progressing. We don’t know how close. He’s close to coming back, but who knows?
Item Two: Michael Hutchinson Might Get Another Chance
Goalie Michael Hutchinson has had a checkered career with the Maple Leafs, and he’s the kind of player who would make a great story if he returned to the Maple Leafs’ lineup and played well enough to win a game or two with the team. He’s done it in the past. His two games this season were far less than anyone hoped, but last season in similar circumstances he showed up when needed and put together a 4-2-1 record with a 2.42 goals-against-average and a save percentage of .919.
On Wednesday, Hutchinson was an emergency call-up from the AHL’s Toronto Marlies. He’ll likely draw in as the backup to Kallgren until Campbell’s ribs are healed enough to allow him to be able to return. Hutchinson is one of those players I’d personally love to see have another chance at the NHL ice time. He’s paid his dues.
Item Three: Ian Scott Is Now Unable to Play for the Toronto Marlies
Ian Scott is one of those unlucky goalies with a history of injuries. Late in 2019, he had to have hip surgery and missed the entire 2019-20 season. This season he, like Mrazek, suffered a groin injury in an exhibition game against the Montreal Canadiens. Now he’s been shut down with an undisclosed injury and isn’t playing with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies.
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Scott’s first injury cost him the first three months of this season, and who knows how long this injury will set him back? With the organization’s goalie situation in such turmoil, sadly he isn’t able to jump up for a try himself.
Item Four: Joseph Woll Injured as Well
One of the season’s great stories has been young goalie Joseph Woll. When he was forced into NHL action, he looked good. Although he has played most of the 2021-22 season with the Marlies, he played well during his first four NHL starts. During his NHL play, Woll put together a record of 3-1-0, a goals-against-average of 2.76, and a save percentage of .911. He also tossed in a shutout.
In fact, he played well enough that the Maple Leafs signed him to a three-year contract extension with the final two seasons (2023-24 and 2024-25) being one-way. He’s obviously considered being a goalie in the Maple Leafs’ future.
However, Woll is currently injured with a shoulder injury and hasn’t played for the Marlies for about a week. There’s no doubt Woll would have likely been a call-up to the big club with Campbell and Mrazek injured. However, his own shoulder injury prevents him from helping address Maple Leafs’ needs.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
So far, as this post goes to publication, there’s been no confirmation about the starting goalie for the team. However, CapFriendly suggests it’s likely to be Kallgren.
In other news, Taylor Hall, who sucker-punched Ilya Lyubushkin to cause his injury, was fined $5,000 for his actions. During that game, when the Boston Bruins went down 6-1 and then began to retaliate with chippy play, the Maple Leafs held their own on the physicality. Obviously, they were limited in their response because they didn’t want to draw penalties with such a big lead; however, they seem to be growing more physical.
That’s been an area of concern for many Maple Leafs’ fans. We’ll see how that plays out.
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