Most of the offseason, there was talk that the Toronto Maple Leafs might choose to move on from goaltender Frederik Andersen. For both salary cap reasons and due to some contract uncertainty, even Andersen believed the writing was on the wall. Ultimately, the goaltender stayed put and the Maple Leafs made other moves.
All that said, the goaltending situation in Toronto is anything but resolved. According to Luke Fox of Sportsnet, not only is there reason to question if the netminding is good enough and the criticisms of Andersen fair, but he classifies the situation as “critical.”
What Makes the Andersen Situation Critical?
When asked to describe the goaltending situation in one word, Fox used the word “critical.” When asked why he chose that word, Fox noted it’s all because, “Freddie Anderson is going into a contract year, because he’s heard his name dangled out there in trade rumors, and Kyle Dubas did poke around.” He continued:
“I think because of the compacted schedule, and the fact that they haven’t gotten over the hump and won a playoff round, he’s going to be a major storyline this year.”
You can see in the video below that Fox is questioning Andersen’s ability to handle the workload in a shortened season, he’s suggesting that the Leafs will have questions about how many starts to give backup Jack Campbell and then whether or not the Maple Leafs need to consider what comes after Andersen’s final season under contract as a Maple Leaf comes to a close. “Do they start showing their plan and prepare for life after Freddie?,” Fox asked.
Are the Criticisms of Andersen Fair?
Knowing that a lot is riding on this season for Andersen and there will be intense pressure to perform without security beyond this year, the 2020-21 campaign will be a mental grind for the pending free agent netminder.
Fox and Steve Dangle were both asked if the questions surrounding Andersen are fair. Fox responded yes, noting that GM Kyle Dubas went out and acquired Campbell, Aaron Dell, and Michael Hutchinson and that if Andersen slips, there is an opportunity for another goalie to grab the reigns.
Steve Dangle said that there are perfectly legitimate criticisms of Andersen considering the Maple Leafs have never won a playoff round with him as their backstop. He also cautioned that the Leafs as a team needed to be better and it’s hard to lay the blame on the team’s failure to advance at Andersen’s feet. Dangle asked, “Have you watched the Toronto Maple Leafs?” He added, “I cannot say that I’ve watch the Toronto Maple Leafs over the past four seasons and come away with the conclusion that Andersen was the problem.”
Fox agreed with that sentiment saying “Oh yeah, he’s feeling a little bit of heat.” Adding to the idea that the Leafs have failed in the postseason, Fox called Andersen the second-best goalie in every one of the four playoff series he’s been in and let in some back-breaking goals.
Fox did say he doesn’t think Andersen is the “problem”, but it’s time for him to show he can get over the hump. If he can, Fox notes that Andersen could become the top free agent target in the 2021 NHL offseason.
What Does All This Mean For Andersen and the Leafs?
For now, Andersen is still the man in Toronto. That said, with all the legitimate goaltending options the team now has at its disposal and with a condensed season that was just announced to tentatively start on January 13th and end sometime in June, the leash might not be all that long.
If Andersen falters, expect a lot to change in terms of how the team views him for the season and in respect to his future with the club as a pending unrestricted free agent.