Photo Credit: Kevin Hoffman / USA Today Sports

Frederik Andersen might be hurt. What now?

At some undetermined point in the first period of Saturday Night’s game against the Buffalo Sabres, Frederik Andersen took a hit to somewhere in the upper body that led to Curtis McEhlinney taking over for the second and third periods of what ended up being a 5-2 loss.

It’s a situation that has people very worried, with the Leafs teetering on the edge of a playoff spot with just eight games to go. With that in mind, here’s a few options to consider moving forward.

Phase 1: Take A Breath

Before we get into any sort of panic, there’s a real chance that Andersen’s injury isn’t really much of anything. Here’s the reasons we have to support this.

  • While McEhlinney was brought in for the second, he was told that he was potentially going in before the first period ended. This meant that Andersen felt comfortable enough with whatever ailed him to keep going.
  • Mike Babcock stated after the game that he hadn’t gone immediately to the trainers to find out the latest update, likely meaning that it wasn’t overly serious. While I could believe him wanting to tune those concerns out during the game, not getting a quick update after the fact likely hints at a lack of catastrophe.
  • The other team’s doctor was the one who made the suggestion to the Leafs, who obliged. The training staff at no point came out onto the ice, so they wouldn’t have known of a direct physical ailment. What’s more likely? They may have seen things in line with a concussion or general wooziness, that a spotter might not have seen.

A head injury would make sense, given these two collisions that may have potentially caused it.

His fall on the Carrier hit is more dramatic, but the Kane one seems to involve a slam of the mask to the ice. The referee has a decent lengthed chat with Andersen after the whistle, but doesn’t seem to be that concerned.

The optimistic thought might be that Buffalo’s doctor had concussion concerns, and the Leafs decided that with the game close against a not-so-great Buffalo team, they could take their chances to make sure that Freddy didn’t take his. By the time the second period was over the game was basically out of reach by score and process, so it made even more reason to not make brash decisions.

To be honest, I feel less concerned about this that the idea that he may have tweaked the shoulder he hurt during the Olympics. Concussions are obviously serious, and if he does have a head injury he absolutely shouldn’t come back until he’s 100%, but I’m not sold that this injury is severe. If it is, though..

Phase 2: Consult Your Farm Team

The timing of this works okay for a call-up. Unfortunately for Antoine Bibeau, it’s unlikely to be him again after a few tries this year; he’s had a real rough go of late and would be more likely to go down a league than up one. Garret Sparks, on the other hand, is currently sitting in third in AHL save percentage at a 0.925, and had an impressive 28-in-29 save performance on Saturday in his first game in a month, following a hamstring injury.

With a potential division lead on the line, he’ll likely get Sunday’s game against Syracuse. If he performs even somewhat well in that, I’d be confident in having him be the call-up. Many remember his close to last season and would no doubt be skeptical of giving him another shot because of that, but given mess that was the end-of-season team and that he himself may have been playing through injury in those later months, I’m not sure I’d call it a definitive sample.

Phase 3: Pray For McBackup

Obviously, though, McElhinney would get the first dibs at the pipes while Andersen is gone. Is he capable of holding the fort? The answer, honestly, is no clue. In his ten appearances with the team, he’s had five appearances of at least a 0.935 save percentage and five under 0.885. That’s not exactly reliable; to run with him, the Leafs will probably need some hot sticks to support his bad nights.

Phase 4: The Nuclear Option

If neither of the two entice you, there’s one crazy option: trade for somebody. Yeah, you heard me.

“But the trade deadline has passed!” You’ve probably said to yourself. That’s certainly true. But the deadline doesn’t mean you can’t make a transaction; just that the player you acquire can’t play in the playoffs. If Andersen is out for a few weeks but might be ready for playoffs, why not grab someone just to hold the fort for right now?

After all, there’s a few UFA’s on teams about to miss the playoffs. Ryan Miller’s having a decent year in Vancouver. Ben Bishop headed over to Los Angeles at the deadline, but they’re probably going to miss the boat. Anders Nilsson has been a heck of a backup for the very same Sabres that the Leafs have just faced.

You have to imagine that the cost for a goaltender a month after the deadline, especially the two high salary guys mentioned before, would be extremely minimal. If you feel absolutely no confidence in McEhlinney or Sparks, this may be the route to go.

Though, again, let’s look back to Phase 1: for all we know, we might be over thinking this entirely, and Andersen’s disapperance may simply be precautionary. I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

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  • FlareKnight

    Phase 5: Freaking Panic!

    As someone who isn’t running the team I exercise the option to worry. Look at the consequences if Andersen is anything less than perfectly ok. McElhinney has been solid since being picked up and done a better job than the previous options this year. But the past few outing he’s looked shaky. It didn’t bite us against NJ, but NJ is really bad.

    Sparks is having a good year in the AHL…but it is hard to shake the bad impression he had last year. I mean, still appreciate the guy. It is thanks to him being utterly bad last year that we got Matthews. Bernier was frankly too good last year down the stretch. If he could be reliable and good then great, but would be more waiting to be surprised than comforted if we called him up. And even then what are the odds Babcock starts him over McElhinney anyways?

    Honestly I say Lou goes all out on Sunday on the nuclear option. They didn’t spend the resources on Boyle to miss the playoffs because of a goaltending disaster. Not necessarily going to be easy to make a trade since the Leafs will be over a barrel and a vulnerable trade partner. But, frankly outside of a horrific rip-off, if Andersen isn’t good to go then it is worth it. Bishop might be the better option if it makes sense. LA is out, there is just no making up that gap in the West and if they can get something back for what (little) they paid for Bishop in the first place then why not?

    I’ll be fine to be made out like an idiot if Andersen is fine. Frankly having our #1 ok to play is something I’d love to have happen. A good chance to get into the playoffs is worth being an idiot about something. But…as it stands this is beyond concerning. The team has been playing great, but part of that has been going through with reliable goaltending. If Andersen can’t play for a significant stretch….That could be it.

    So let’s see what happens. If Andersen is fine then great. Otherwise I say Lou goes straight to the nuclear option before Tuesday. Every point matters and we have only so many games left to get points in. We can’t afford to test around with possibilities with the playoffs on the line. Find a decent goalie on a bad team and scoop him up.

  • Gary Empey

    One has to consider the fact that Andersen did not sit on the bench for the 2nd and 3rd periods. That strikes me a a concussion protocol. He was seen dressed in his civvies, leaving the arena, with 10 minutes to go in the third period. I am not sure what the average time a player sits out when diagnosed with a concussion. Looks to me Sparks comes up to back up McEhlinney.

    • Gary Empey

      Yes you can make trades after the trade deadline. Any player you acquire via trade after the deadline is not eligible to dress for the playoffs, just the regular season.

      • Glen

        Thanks Gary, so I guess a trade for a goalie just to get into the playoffs would be debatable. In any case it remains to be seen just what the extent of Andersons injury is.

  • MartinPolak

    This is a really bad take I’m reading here. Look, I’m surprised you need to be told this but

    The leafs are fine w or w/o andersen. They are better with him but they are still good without him.

  • ME!!

    got tell you ……….don’t think this has anything to due with the game in buffalo, this was from haveing to play two teams the other nite, the refs and clombus bluejackets…..and our soft as fecal matter defense……..columbus ran the goalie and not one player made anyone pay!!

  • lukewarmwater

    Obviously teams are working hard on the key plays of running goalies. I mean even Nylander led with his shoulder the other night. Yesiree you give a well placed elbow or inadvertently fall on a goalie and it could be curtains for your favourite teams. Back in the 1960’s clubs in the orginal six started obtaining a designated cop. The Habs brought in a tough as nails guy from Vancouver, John Bowie Ferguson to handle Terrible Teddy Green of the Bruins. Ironically as I’ve watched in recent weeks more and more goalies getting absolutely hammered, in some cases their own defencemen have propelled an opposition big forward into his goalie. I watched a segment of a classic leaf and Hab battles in the 1960’s. One particular game showed Ferguson deliberately attempt to injure the gentleman of all goalies Johnny Bower. He ran into him deliberately twice in the game. He succeeded in the second occasion and put Bower out for the year which basically gave the Habs the Stanley cup in 1965.

    I think Babs has a political career in the future a la Ken Dryden, the Big M in the senate, Red Kelly an M.P. etc. as he is being evasive which is what you would expect from him regarding Andersen. But certain phraseology is coming across that slightly raises concerns in my humble opinion in the suggestion of the old day to day syndrome which when applied to our sensational rookie marvelous Mitch Marner led to two weeks.
    Here is the fact of the matter no one and especially the leaf management felt that they would be in this position at the end of March. Thus the key was get a solid starting goal tender and the back up, well there is a value village down the street so we will pick up Enroth as Andersen will be the one playing 85% of the game. But a funny thing happened on that walk to the forum. The kids grew up in a hurry and all of a sudden we had to replace Enroth with Curtis, who as has been mentioned here has been hot and cold. Now I tend to think M.L.S.E. is salivating over the thought of playoff games, so yeah I could see the nuclear option indeed being seriously discussed to bring in Bishop as an example. It would indeed be costly but I think the risk would be worth it.
    Back to my original point, I’m no Hab lover but the Rangers deliberately went after Price and voila won the series after Price got hurt with the big Ranger forward sliding hard into Price. Hell even in baseball now you can’t slide hard into the second baseman or short stop to break up a double play.
    The hopeless Bettman has a very serious problem on his hands as even super stars such as Jonathan Toews ran the Canucks goalie Miller which resulted in a penalty that cost the Hawks the game in o.t. but Toews figured he would get away with it and a woozy Miller could be beaten on the next shot fired at him.
    The N.H.L. has to protect their goalie or sadly we will see in a manner of time one team take out the other teams goalie only to see the other team return the favour. I want hockey not W.W.E. antics come the playoffs.

    • Gary Empey

      That whole day to day, upper/lower body thing is very frustrating for the fans. In a contact sport like hockey they is a good reason for it. Wendel Clarke said after it became public knowledge he had injuring his back, everyone in the league was running him. Guys that never bodychecked anyone were now taking a shot at him every chance they got. As for the running of goalies. Ya it still goes on. It is like a chess game. When the NHL brings in rules to try and stop dangerous plays, players after a period of time find new ways to get the old results. You mention defencemen often pushing forward into their own goalie. They forwards have come to realize the defencemen are screwed. Defencemen have to either they let them stand there and screen the goalie and look for tap ins, take a penalty or take a chance and attempt to check them out of the play. It the forward gets checked he already knows which way he intends to fall. They took hooking out of the game. Now instead of hooking the play is to wack the puck carrier on the lower arm, wrist, or finger. Make it look like they were simply trying to get the puck carrier to lose control of the puck. You only have to look at which players are ending up with broken bones to know that it is intentional. It is the skilled playmakers. Numerous times this year I have seen Marner shaking his arm on the bench after playing a shift.

    • getrdone

      All of what you said is accurate as far as I am concerned, the only part I would put an asterik beside is the part of- their own defensemen run players into the goalie* It is a matter of trying to keep the offensive player away from the goalie and the offensive player continuing to drive the net and the place where it all stops is on top of the goalie, what is a defenseman to do? not try to impede the progress of the forward? Goalies should be fair game if the wander from the net, but in the crease there should be no infraction. Now you can even push the goalie into the net because the NHL player safety department calls every one of the goalie interference differently.

  • Gary Empey

    Found this comment at Editor in Leaf
    “The NHL’s protocol regarding concussions requires any player suspected of having a head injury to leave the game.” So there is a reasonably good chance it is a minor issue. If any brain injury can be considered minor.

  • Jack Kirchhoff

    Just about every trip up the ice I see slashes, cross-checks and/or “bumped” goalies, hardly any of which are ever penalized. Then I see one of those rinky-dink hooks called, and I spend the next two minutes (or less, as the announcers always add) wondering exactly what the NHL’s thinking is on penalties. I still can’t unsee Marc Methot’s finger after that two-handed Crosby slash. No penalty, of course.

    • Gary Empey

      I agree. The NHL’s thinking is supposed to be to stop the star players from having to tow a defender up the ice with him. A few years ago the NHL sent a memo to all referees to clamp down on hooking. This has led to more of the smaller, exciting, highly skilled players able to play in the league. It was hard on the defencemen, for a lot of them that was half their game when getting beat at the blue line.
      What do you think of the interference calls? I see interference on almost every play, then out of the blue someone gets called for it.