Is The Leafs’ Long-Running Goaltending Nightmare Soon To End?

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Photo Credit: John E. Sokolowski/USA TODAY SPORTS

That sound you heard this week wasn’t exactly thunderous in terms of a celebratory UFA signing by the Toronto Maple Leafs — but it did make many breathe easier, in that Jhonas Enroth stabilizes the backup goaltender position going into this transitional 2016-17 season, behind Fredrik Andersen, signing a rather perfunctory one-year, $750k contract.

This move does a lot of things for the Leafs — they get a veteran backup, and one that looked quite good in just 13 starts last year in Los Angeles.  Yes, the Kings are a pretty damn fine team to play in net for — and last season, Jonathan Quick led all NHL goalies in starts with a whopping 68.  Hey, he didn’t even TOUCH Andrew Raycroft’s 72 from the ill-fated 2006-07 season, so we’ll always have that!

But it’s the most intriguing year in a long time to watch the Maple Leafs’ goaltenders — and yet intrigue, not to mention chaos and disorder have really ruled the crease for the Leafs, really ever since the lockout.

From 40-year old Ed Belfour’s dramatic drop-off in post-lockout performance in 2005-06, to the nearly-miraculous playoff berth during J.S. Aubin’s run, to the horrifyingly awful outcomes of the trades for Raycroft and just as significantly, Vesa Toskala, to Brian Burke’s ill-advised hyping of Jonas Gustavsson as the “best goalie on the planet not in the NHL”, which is a little like saying I’m the best sports radio host on the planet, if you don’t count 60 or 70 other guys……anyway, goaltending for Maple Leafs’ fans has been like watching quarterbacks come and go for several NFL franchises (including all teams in the AFC East EXCEPT New England) for the last 15 years or so.

With James Reimer departing mid-season in a trade to San Jose, and getting to experience a Cup Final run (albeit as a backup to Martin Jones), and the inevitable end of Jonathan Bernier’s brief and frustrating Leafs career, having two newcomers with several NHL seasons each under their belts could make things very interesting.

The Leafs had something few NHL organizations can claim from 1992-2004 — amazing consistency in starting goaltending, beginning with Felix Potvin, ascending as a youngster and taking starts away from Grant Fuhr, to four seasons of Curtis Joseph, to three very good ones before the lockout from Ed Belfour.

It’s zero coincidence, the Leafs won eleven playoff series in that span of time, haven’t won any since, and won just two in the thirteen years prior.  Again, to spell it out, what can consistent goaltending bring you?

1979-1992:  2-7 in playoff series over 10 season span

1993-2004:  11-10 in playoff series over 12 season span

2006-2016:  0-1 in playoff series over 11 season span

Yes, goaltending is a “team”-based statistical category for the most part.  But let’s look at league averages of goals against and save percentage post-lockout — and though there is promise for an Andersen/Enroth tandem (though it’s probably a 75/25 percentage split of starts leaning Andersen’s way if both stay consistent and healthy), promising goaltenders have arrived in Toronto in considerable numbers since the autumn of 2005 and either mildly disappointed or utterly flamed out and never recovered professionally.

Year SV% AvgSV% SV% +/- GAA AvgGAA GAA +/-
2006 0.897 0.901 -0.004 3.21 2.93 0.28
2007 0.891 0.905 -0.014 3.2 2.77 0.43
2008 0.896 0.909 -0.013 3.12 2.61 0.51
2009 0.887 0.908 -0.021 3.49 2.73 0.76
2010 0.896 0.911 -0.015 3.21 2.66 0.55
2011 0.907 0.913 -0.006 2.99 2.61 0.38
2012 0.900 0.914 -0.014 3.16 2.54 0.62
2013 0.921 0.912 0.009 2.67 2.54 0.13
2014 0.918 0.914 0.004 3.07 2.56 0.51
2015 0.910 0.915 -0.005 3.13 2.52 0.61
2016 0.909 0.915 -0.006 2.93 2.51 0.42

That was ugly to research, uglier to type, and ugliest of all, I suppose, for you to read.  You can see just how hard Reimer had to work in the short season with how egregious Carlyle’s Leafs were at giving up more shots than their opponents, and in 2013-14 both Reimer and Bernier were facing the exact same thing, and just collapsed shy of the playoffs under those conditions.

In case you’re wondering, because I certainly was, the Maple Leafs haven’t had a team goals-against below the league average since Ed Belfour’s first season — league average was 2.55, and the Leafs were a 2.54, so, yeah, barely!

This will shock you — the Maple Leafs haven’t been in the NHL’s Top 10 for goals against since 1993-94!!!! They were 6th that season at 2.89 (Buffalo, yeah, Hasek, led the league at 2.60).  You need to understand this — in the last TWENTY-ONE seasons, the Leafs haven’t once finished Top 10 in goals-against.  Is that all on the goaltender?  Hardly.  There are five other players on the ice in front of that goaltender for the majority of the game, and there are coaches directing players and implementing systems — but for all the harping and griping about scoring more goals, and this player and that player not contributing offensively — the Leafs ineptness for a nearly 15-year span comes down to keeping the puck out of their own net.  

That will hardly change overnight — but watching Andersen and Enroth this season, should, somewhat, even minutely, be a step in a direction to minimize the painful recent memories of Maple Leafs netminders.

  • SEER

    Yes.. We now have TWO good tenders in the same upcoming season… and a few prospects in waiting… Good blog, Greg.

    Jhonas Enroth / Goalie / shoots L / Born Jun 25 1988 / Stockholm, Sweden / 28 yrs. ago / Height 5.10 / Weight 171

    RECENT STATS:

    2013-14 – Buffalo Sabres – NHL 28 Games… 4 Wins.. 17 Losses… 5 Ties… *0 S/O’s.. .911 SV % … 2.82 GAA.. —————————————————————————————————————————– 2014-15 – Buffalo Sabres – NHL 37 Games… 13 Wins.. 21 Losses… 2 Ties… *1 S/O.. .903 SV % … 3.27 GAA.. —————————————————————————————————————————- 2014-15 – Dallas Stars – NHL 13 Games… 5 Wins.. 5 Losses… 0 Ties… *1 S/O.. .906 SV % … 2.38 GAA.. ————————————————————————————————————————————— 2015-16 – Los Angeles Kings – NHL 16 Games… 7 Wins.. 5 Losses… 1 Tie… *2 S/O’s.. .922 SV % … 2.17 GAA.. ————————————————————————————————————————————— + WC & IIHF stats for the above seasons..

    Rollin’ With Enroth: Jhonas Enroth Extended 2013-2016 Highlights – TML (HD)

    —> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WC7LvhhUqmo

    ——————

    Frederik Andersen
    Goalie — shoots L
    Born Oct 2 1989 — Herning, Denmark
    26 yrs. ago
    Height 6.04 — Weight 220

    RECENT STATS:

    2013-14 – Anaheim Ducks – NHL
    28 Games… 20 Wins.. 5 Losses… 0 Ties… *0 S/O’s..
    .923 SV % … 2.29 GAA..
    —————————————————————————————————————————————
    2013-14 – Norfolk Admirals – AHL
    1 Game… 1 Win.. *1 S/O..
    ————————————————————————————————————————————————
    2014 NHL PLAYOFFS
    7 Games… 3 Wins.. 2 Losses… 5 Ties… *0 S/O’s..
    .899 SV % … 3.10 GAA..
    ————————————————————
    2014-15 – Anaheim Ducks – NHL
    54 Games… 35 Wins.. 12 Losses… 5 Ties… *3 S/O’s..
    .914 SV % … 2.38 GAA..
    ———————————————————————-
    2015 NHL PLAYOFFS
    16 Games… 11 Wins.. 5 Losses… 0 Ties… *1 S/O..
    .913 SV % … 2.34 GAA..
    —————————————————————————————————————————————————-
    2015-16 – Anaheim Ducks – NHL
    43 Games… 22 Wins.. 9 Losses… 4 Ties… *3 S/O’s..
    .919 SV % … 2.30 GAA..
    ————————————————————————————————————————————–
    2016 NHL PLAYOFFS
    5 Games… 3 Wins.. 2 Losses… 0 Ties… *1 S/O…
    .947 SV % … 1.41 GAA..

    Nucleus: Frederik Andersen 2014-16 Saves & Highlights – TML (HD)

    –> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N1w6FIIXdxk

  • CMpuck

    It’s either the end of the nightmare or the beginning of another long one. Let’s not pretend Andersen is a sure thing. He’s a gamble. It’s the same as people that praised Raycroft’s ROY when we gifted Rask for him and Toskala being proven when we traded 3 picks for him. Most Leaf fans just willfully ignore the uncertainty and that Andersen is likely 50/50 a best from being a pure bust.

  • Yes it appears that we have 2 capable goaltenders, but not as you say “who have played several years in the NHL each”. Let’s face it Bernier has played as much in the NHL as Andersen and Reimer has played more NHL games than Enroth. The reason this season is looking up in the goaltending is that for one we have a better group of defensemen and hopefully a better forward group, that on top of a better system and the goaltending will automatically be better.

  • Trevor5555

    Great article.

    Its been a decade of misfortune regarding the Leafs goaltending and defence. We managed to trade the only good goalie we aquired(Rask) since Belfour and havent had a goalie of even average abilities.

    Compared to Bernier and Toskala, Andersen actually has a lot more proven a track record. He has back to back seasons of almost starters workload. 54 and 43 games is pretty close to the 60 game the Leafs are planning to get from him and his sv% of .920 is good for top 10 in the league. His 2.3 GAA is good enough for the William M. Jennings Trophy this past season.

    Toskala and Bernier put up good numbers as backups before coming to Toronto. Big difference.

    Babcock has this team playing much better defence than previous years. Our CF/60 was 3rd in the NHL and our CA/60 was 15th in the NHL, up from 25th and 27th the year before. SF/60 was 8th in the NHL and SA/60 was 20th in the NHL, up from 22nd and 29th the year before.

    With our guys more familiar with Babcocks systems and the addition of Matthews, Nylander, Marner, Zaitsev, Carrick and our bottom 6 having more depth with Martin and guys like Michalek, Lupul, Bozak, Greening or graduating Marlies like Leivo, Hyman, Brown and Soshnikov etc our possession numbers should see further improvement.

    As much as guys like Matthews, Nylander and Marner will help our ability to create chances with their skill, the added depth will also help our shot suppression as those three are good defensively as well.

    Andersen and Enroth had really strong seasons last year and they are playing behind a much improved team with one of the best coaching staffs in the NHL. This is a recipe for a strong season for both goalies. I will be surprised if Toronto doesnt have a team GAA of 2.5 or less.

  • Stan Smith

    I think you hit the nail on the head when you mentioned Goals against. It has been much more than a goalie issue.

    Since the lost season the Leafs have used 19 goalies. They couldn’t all be bad. A lot of them had success prior to being signed by the Leafs and some after they were dealt. The Leafs have been a nightmare defensively since the first lockout, period. To me the goalies have been the victims, not the culprits.

    Nice attempt at trying to rewriting history with your “in 2013-14 both Reimer and Bernier were facing the exact same thing, and just collapsed” comment. The Leafs were in 3rd place in early March when Bernier got hurt, plain and simple. The only collapsing he did was to the ice with his injured groin. Reimer came in and couldn’t get the job done. There was speculation he was playing hurt as well.

  • Most would agree that Leafs lacked quality goaltending last year but partly compensated for this with better defensive play. A lack of scoring contributed even more to the GAA diffential.

    Scoring should improve and hopefully defensive play also (though may be minimal without further influx of talent). See no reason why GAA and differential should not continue to improve.

    We still don’t know how could Andersen may be, especially given the workload of a #1 goalie. Time will tell, but to date he has performed well in a limited number of games.