Toronto Maple Leafs Playoff Success Rests on Jack Campbell

Much has been made about the Jekyll and Hyde season that Jack Campbell is having. We recently wrote about the goalies being the Maple Leafs’ biggest concern. The fact is that one of the Maple Leafs’ goalies is not a concern, but the other is. The bigger problem is that the goalie of concern is the goalie who’s playing for us now.

Related: Maple Leafs’ Campbell Better Because of Adversity

Both goalies – the one we want and the one who’s a concern – are the same person. That’s because, if we break the season into two parts – 2021 and 2022, it’s like we are looking at two completely different goalies. 

Comparing Campbell’s First Half and Second Half of the Season

From the start of the season to December 31st Campbell’s record was:

Games Played24
OT & SO Losses4
Win Percentage.750%
Save Percentage.937%
Goals Against Ave:1.86
Jack Campbell Toronto Maple Leafs
Jack Campbell, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

From January First to March 4th Campbell’s record has been:

Games Played16
OT & SO Losses1
Win Percentage531%
Save Percentage.883%
Goals Against Ave:3.61

What Do the Numbers Mean in Terms of Winning?

Looking more closely at what these numbers mean, if an NHL team played the entire season with a .750 winning percentage it would accumulate 123 points. Only six teams in the history of the NHL have finished a season with 123 or more points. 

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A .531 winning percentage would give a team 87 points. Since the advent of the 82 game season, and before pandemic-shortened seasons, according to the worst point total that has guaranteed a team a place in the postseason following an 82-game schedule is 96 points. There have been seasons where a team with as few as 91 points has made the playoffs, but 93 points isn’t a guarantee. With 87 points a team doesn’t even come close to making the playoffs. 

The 2021 Campbell most likely not only makes the playoffs but gives his team an odds-on chance of finishing first in the NHL. With the 2022 Campbell, you don’t make the playoffs.

Jack Campbell Toronto Maple Leafs
Jack Campbell, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Campbell’s .937 save percentage at the end of 2021 was first in the NHL. His .887 save percentage in 2022 is 26th in the NHL. Campbell’s 1.86 goals-against average in 2021 was first in the NHL. His 3.49 goals-against average in 2022 is 26th in the NHL. For comparison, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s goalie and last season’s Conn Smythe winner Andrei Vasilevskiy posted a 1.90 goals-against average and the exact same .937 save percentage in 23 postseason games.

Overall the numbers affirm what our eyes tell us. With the 2021 Campbell in goal, the Maple Leafs are one of the best teams in the league. With the 2022 Campbell backstopping them, although they’re not one of the worst teams in the league, they are not a playoff team. They are certainly not a Stanley Cup contender. 

As for Petr Mrazek, while he’s had regular-season stretches where he’s played well, nothing in his past indicates he can carry a team through the playoffs and challenge for a Stanley Cup.  

Maple Leafs General Manager Kyle Dubas Doesn’t Think Goalie Play is the Issue

On Friday at a press conference in Hamilton as the lead-up to the Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic next week, when asked about his goaltending situation, Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas replied:

“We’ve got two guys that have been good goaltenders. I mean, Jack played at an All-Star level this year. Peter Mrazek’s played almost played 300 games in net or nearing that and he’s been a good goaltender in his career.”

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Dubas added: “I don’t think goaltending was the issue in the last game and I think we tend to get a little bit game-to-game in this marketplace and I’m not concerned about either one of them.”

Of course, a general manager of a team with struggling goaltenders is going to say something along those lines. No general manager will come forward and say they’re worried their goalies aren’t good enough. 

The Maple Leafs’ Options Are Limited

In reality, the Maple Leafs are in a position where they have no other choice but to hope that Campbell or Mrazek can find their game and provide the Maple Leafs with, at the very least, competent goaltending. There are few replacement options out there, and no guarantees another goaltender they could acquire would be any better.  

Petr Mrazek, Toronto Maple Leafs
Petr Mrazek, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

As we mentioned earlier, there’s nothing in Mrazek’s past to show a playoff goalie who can carry a team. That leads us back to Campbell. Last season in the playoffs against the Montreal Canadiens, Campbell posted a .934 save percentage and a 1.81 goals-against average. 

Despite giving up a questionable goal in Game 7 of that series, he only gave up two goals in the game. That should have been enough for the Maple Leafs to win the game. The team’s inability to score was their downfall.  

What Can Be Done?

Going back to the press conference on Friday, Dubas added: “Unless we get the news we don’t want on Muz, I think we’ll just have the one move left. I think if we’re gonna focus on anything here, it’s trying to make the team better. But I think at this time, it’d be a bit more on defense.”

Jake Muzzin Toronto Maple Leafs
Jake Muzzin, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

So there we have it. In that one statement, Dubas summed up the Maple Leafs’ plan. Directly, Dubas is saying the team has one more move it can make and that’s to acquire one more defenseman. Indirectly, Dubas is stating the team’s plan to help Campbell return to the 2021 version of himself is to “be better defensively.”

That’s pretty much all the Maple Leafs can do. The team can commit to playing a better defensive game and put Campbell in a better position to succeed.  

Related: Tkachuk Shows His Ignorance Discussing Maple Leafs’ Campbell Injury

The speculation from fans is that, for the first time since Dubas took over as the Maple Leafs’ general manager, his job future might be depending on it.  

[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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