The Toronto Maple Leafs may have the most-watched crease in the NHL. Finally, Erik Källgren gave the blue and white some much-needed relief in net, recording his first NHL start, first NHL win and first NHL shutout on Tuesday night. The impressive 35 save performance to lead the team to a 4-0 win over the Dallas Stars was great, but it’s not the answer to Toronto’s goalie woes. In fact, it underlines the need to trade for a netminder ASAP.
Everyone loves a good story, and it would be fantastic if this rookie comes out of nowhere and leads the Maple Leafs to the Stanley Cup. While that would be an unbelievable Hollywood script, it is even more far-fetched for the NHL and the Maple Leafs. It wasn’t long ago this exact same story was playing out in Toronto, but we know how that ended — not well.
Källgren is Not the Answer
Last season a goalie who bounced around the league for years suddenly took command of the Maple Leafs’ crease. Jack Campbell was so dominant that long-time number one goalie, Frederik Andersen, was relegated to the backup spot and never saw the ice in the playoffs. The season ended with the Maple Leafs losing three straight playoff games to drop the series 4-3 against Montreal. In game seven, Campbell gave up a weak goal, and Toronto never recovered. However, his performance was good enough for the Leafs’ brass to let Andersen walk in free agency and sign an injury-plagued Petr Mrazek as the backup Campbell. But when Campbell’s magic ran out and the inconsistent play returned, Toronto has found themselves staring at a first-round exit in the playoffs.
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What if Campbell played just well enough last season to keep the net warm until Andersen returned? Maybe Toronto makes it past the first round? Perhaps Andersen shows the team enough to be re-signed instead of letting him go to the Carolina Hurricanes, where he is having a Vezina-worthy season. That’s many what-ifs, but it’s also a history lesson for Kyle Dubas.
Maple Leafs Need to Learn from the Past
Jean Bodin, a French philosopher from the 1500s said, “History teaches us the mistakes we are going to make.” Källgren’s play may be good enough to lure some to believe the problem in the net has been rectified. Let the 25-year-old hold the fort until Campbell returns. If Campbell is not the magical version of himself, you can simply go back to the kid. This would allow the front office to get back to searching for trades to bolster the blue line and find some depth for the playoffs. But trading for a defenseman and some gritty forwards will not matter when the goaltending collapses in the playoffs.
To repeat, we just watched that movie, and if you missed it, you could re-live the pain over and over on Amazon’s All or Nothing docuseries. No, there are still serious issues in the net, and the first priority must be trading for an elite goalie who can steal a few games and bail his team out when the defence breaks down, which it often does in Toronto.
Källgren’s shutout was fun to watch, but it wasn’t the best goalie performance on Tuesday night. When the Toronto game finished, I turned on the team catching the Maple Leafs in the standings, the Boston Bruins. I was treated to a goaltending clinic courtesy of the Chicago Blackhawks’ Marc-André Fleury. Had he not been in the net, Boston would’ve won 8-1. Instead, the Bruins won 2-1 in overtime, Fleury made 46 saves. Just imagine a goalie like that playing in Toronto’s crease.