The bottom line is that we’re still unsure who the Toronto Maple Leafs’ goalie starter might be, but we now know the plan going forward.
Today, when Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas spoke with the media, he noted that he fully expected Erik Kallgren to compete with Joseph Woll for the backup goalie job heading into the 2022-23 season.
Dubas reported, “I think I feel good about Kallgren and Woll battling there as well and that gives me confidence that the focus will certainly be one (goalie) and then we’ll see what the cap situation is from there and proceed.”
That Comment Augured In a New/Old Way of Playing Goalies
With that thought, Dubas was basically announcing that – with yesterday’s trade of Petr Mrazek to the Chicago Blackhawks – the team was reverting to the older (more traditional) goalie system that was employed before last season began.
As Maple Leaf fans know, when Mrazek was brought in prior to last season beginning, it was going to be Mrazek and Jack Campbell as goalie 1A and goalie 1B. It never worked out that way because Mrazek was injured for much of the season. In fact, he only played 20 games during the entire season. With Mrazek gone, things are reverting to an older system.
Basically, there will be one starting goalie who will be expected to play a large number of games and a backup goalie who will play fewer games. Although right now there’s no decision outstanding on who the goalie starter will be, it looks as if the team will be using the backup position to develop goalies within the system rather than head outside the system for a goalie 1A and 1B.
Two Reasons Why That’s a Good Plan
There are two reasons why that decision makes sense for the Maple Leafs. First, it offers a philosophy of developing a goalie within the system. Until now, goalie development has been an organizational weakness. Last season, the goalie tandem of Campbell and whatever backup goalie played – mostly either Kallgren or Woll – seemed to work quite well. Those goalies got the team into the playoffs and set a franchise record for victories and points on the season.
A second reason why that’s a good plan is that it’s much cheaper against the salary cap. The plan allows the starter to carry most of the salary-cap burden, with a younger goalie on an entry-level contract picking up the rest of the starts. That makes perfect sense for a salary-cap-starved team like the Maple Leafs.
One Issue to Avoid with This New/Old Maple Leafs’ Plan
The new/old system outlined by Dubus heading into the 2222-23 season was basically the goalie system employed prior to the hiring of head coach Sheldon Keefe. Before he became coach, one problem his predecessor Mike Babcock had was that he often used the starting goalie in preferential games and saved the backup goalie for games that would be difficult to win.
It was almost as if the backup goalie was being sacrificed so that the starting goalie always had a better chance of winning. I believe it would be more beneficial if that philosophy changed.
If you are a young backup goalie, to always be used as a sacrificial lamb so the starter can be more successful can’t be helpful in the long term.
We’ll see how that unfolds over the course of the 2022-23 season. Now we just need to wait to see who the new goalie will be.