At the start of the 2021-22 regular season, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ goalie situation was in flux. Jack Campbell had been a surprise. When long-time Maple Leafs’ starter Frederik Andersen was injured the season before, Campbell had jumped in and done well. In fact, he had set an NHL record when he started the season with 10 straight wins.
However, all that aside, the team’s management believed that Campbell had too little body of work to know for certain if he would become a bona fide starting goaltender. That was a big enough concern that they decided to hedge their bets by bringing in another veteran goalie to help share the load. That new goalie was Petr Mrazek.
Mrazek’s Play on the Season
The Maple Leafs signed Mrazek to a three-year, $11.4 million deal in the offseason. The team’s plan was to use Campbell as goalie 1A and Mrazek as goalie 1B. Mrazek was thought to be great insurance for the team. He could become part of the tandem of two; or, should Campbell falter, he could become the starter.
Wrong! The Mrazek experiment failed miserably. His game-one injury haunted him all season; and, he never found his form. Although Mrazek posted a decent won/loss record (12-6-0), it was more because the Maple Leafs’ team in front of him was able to cover for his mistakes. Mrazek’s goals-against average of 3.34 and his .888 save percentage in 20 games just didn’t cut it.
Campbell’s Play Really Was No Better
Maple Leafs’ fans love Jack Campbell, and with good reason. He’s a class act, a decent human, and a solid goalie. However, fans sometimes fail to see Campbell for what he was. He was up and down and on and off. Upon a closer look, Campbell also benefited from the solid play of the team in front of him.
Again, Campbell put together a decent enough 16-5-4 record, but he was far from solid. In his “up” times, for example, during the first part of the season, Campbell was as good as a goalie can be. Everyone was touting him as a Vezina Trophy contender and an NHL All-Star.
But, in his down times from early December until mid-March, Campbell simply wasn’t strong.
Looking at the New Maple Leafs’ Goalies for 2022-23
With both Campbell and Mrazek gone, the Maple Leafs now have two new goalies. They traded for Matt Murray and they signed Ilya Samsonov. Murray had been with the Ottawa Senators and Samsonov with the Washington Capitals. How will they fare this season with the Maple Leafs?
The 28-year-old Murray’s season in 2021-22 was up and down (not much different than Campbell’s season). He brings a resume with him that shows two Stanley Cups. Samsonov didn’t receive a qualifying offer from the Capitals; but, at 25 years of age, he was once a highly-valued goalie.
There’s a Good Chance the Goalie Play Could Be Improved
One big goaltending question is if will be as good this season as it was last season. Taking an objective look at how much the team actually covered for its goalies last season, there’s a good chance that this season’s goalies – even if they have a similar experience – will be just as successful as last season’s goalies.
How Murray and Samsonov perform remains a question mark. Still, both goalies are still young (28 and 25) and are eager to prove they can bounce back. If the Maple Leafs get solid – not even elite goaltending, the team should be able to cover for mistakes in the net. Last season, the Maple Leafs’ goaltending was more questionable than fans seem to believe in retrospect. It’s little different this season.
Maple Leafs’ fans should probably expect about the same kind of goalie play as last season. That said, the two new goalies could be much better. However, an accurate look at the goalie play suggests it’s probably as accurate to believe the goalies as a tandem won’t be any worse than last season’s.
And, in the end, that’s probably a positive. The 2022-23 season will be interesting.