It seems that there is no in-between with the Toronto Maple Leafs. It is either “Plan the Parade” or “The Sky is Falling.” It appears, at this moment, that the apocalypse is upon us all because of Matt Murray’s thigh. Who would have thought that a body part would bring about the end of the Maple Leafs’ world?
There should be no panic in the Blue and White Nation. The Maple Leafs have an injured goalie. That’s it. It’s not as if they are the first team to have this happen. In fact, they aren’t the only team to have a goalie hurt at this moment.
Related: Maple Leafs Commentary: Murray’s & Robertson’s Perspectives
Taking a quick check of the NHL injury report there are presently 12 goalies on the injury list. That is a dozen different NHL teams, which is 37 percent or about one-third of the league, that are dealing with injured goaltenders.
This Same Thing Happened Last Season for the Maple Leafs
Looking back at last season, right about this same time the Maple Leafs had just lost newly-signed Petr Mrazek to a groin injury. Mrazek went on to suffer two more injuries during the season and only played 20 games for the Maple Leafs due to his injuries.
Although the situation wasn’t perfect, the Maple Leafs survived. In fact, the team also went on to set a franchise record in the regular season by winning 54 games and acquiring 115 points.
The odds are pretty good that the team will survive Murray’s injury. They have Ilya Samsonov, who won 65 percent of the games he started last season, They also have Erik Kallgren as their backup. He won 70 percent of the games he started for the Maple Leafs last season.
Trading for Murray Was Always a Gamble
Acquiring Murray was always going to be a gamble. He has a long history of injuries. Even in the two seasons in which he won Stanley Cups, he had injury problems. That said, when Murray is healthy he is a top NHL goalie.
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Last season with the Ottawa Senators, a season which was labeled a failure for him, Murray put together a streak where he went seven games straight without a regulation loss and posted a .944 save percentage and a 1.82 goals-against-average.
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From January 13, after returning from an injury to February 15 when he was injured again, in ten games played, Murray posted a .942 percent save percentage and a 2.01 goals-against-average.
Kyle Dubas Knew What He Was Doing When He Brought Murray to Toronto
Given how fastidious the organization is with decisions about salary-cap monies and limits, there would be no way that conversations about Murray’s injury history would not have surfaced and have been a topic of discussion. You can bet that Assistant General Manager Brandon Pridham, the Maple Leafs’ salary-cap guru, would have weighed in on the conversation. Right or wrong, this organization would not make such a move without doing its due diligence.
When Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas acquired Murray, we have to believe Dubas considered two possibilities for how Murray’s season would play out. First, he probably hoped and believed Murray would be healthy and play well. Second, he might also have considered that, given Murray’s history, he might be injured at some time during the season. If, and when that might occur, the team would deal with that possibility.
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If it were the latter, then moving Murray to the LTIR would give the Maple Leafs about $4.7 million in additional cap space to find another goalie at the trade deadline. Meanwhile, Dubas had other goalies in Ilya Samsonov, Erik Kallgren, and even Joseph Woll (when he returns from shoulder surgery), who could play well enough to get the Maple Leafs into the playoffs.
For Now, the Maple Leafs’ Job Is to Win Games
For now, all the Maple Leafs, Dubas, and head coach Sheldon Keefe have to do is take care of the business in front of them. They’ll worry about the Arizona Coyotes tonight and then the Dallas Stars on Thursday night.
It’s time for Samsonov to have his third winning game in a row tonight.
[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.]