Highs and Lows: The Goalies

Now that the offseason can officially be pronounced dead (barring an Erik Karlsson trade or a William Nylander extension), we can start looking at the roster, and what we can expect from the roster in the 2018-19 season. This might be a hot take to some, but the Leafs made some big improvements this offseason, particularly with the addition of John Tavares, so we can certainly expect this team to make strides this season, but it might not go as expected.

Taking from our buddies at Oilers Nation, over the next little while, I’m going to be looking at the Leafs roster, and seeing what the best and worst case scenarios are for all of the Leafs. Of course, this will be assuming that these players don’t get injured at all this season, and that they won’t get traded, but I’m going to try and make realistic ceilings and floors for what we can expect from the Leafs this season.

Today, we’ll be looking at the goalies, this being all four candidates for one of the two goalie spots on the roster.

Dec 6, 2017; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen (31) keeps his eye on the puck after making a save against the Calgary Flames during the second period at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Frederik Andersen

Ceiling: Last season, Freddy had reached a point where there was starting to be some Vezina talk with him. Fatigue kicked in and basically got rid of that talk, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t potential.

Fredward is definitely capable of playing at a Vezina-calibre level, but that’s only if Babcock is smart and knows when to give him some rest. So, I’d say that Freddy’s ceiling is a Vezina nomination kind of play, while only starting 50 games, and allowing him some rest for the playoffs.

Floor: The Leafs have their pick at a good backup goalie that should be able to let Freddy play less. If they don’t do this, then Freddy will probably have another good season, but flame out come playoff time due to fatigue.

So, I’d say that Freddy’s floor will be essentially what we saw from him these last two seasons. Not that that’s bad, but when the Leafs have the goalie surplus that they do right now in terms of backups, they don’t need to play Andersen as much.

Mar 14, 2017; Sunrise, FL, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Curtis McElhinney gives up a goal Florida Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle (not pictured) as Toronto defenseman Jake Gardiner (51) looks on in the third period at BB&T Center. The Panthers won 7-2. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Curtis McElhinney

Ceiling: Even though McElhinney just came off a season where he posted a .934 save percentage, I wouldn’t call it a realistic ceiling for him in the future, considering that he’s a career .909 goalie.

I’d say a realistic ceiling for him would be, considering the goalie depth this season, making the Leafs out of camp and being a solid backup for the season, playing in 15-20 games, and floating around .910.

Floor: However, his spot isn’t a lock. A bad training camp or start to the season could see him get sent down to the minors, although his lack of value compared to the other two would make it easier to send him down to begin with.

So, assuming he clears, I’d say the worst case scenario for McElhinney would be him getting sent down to the Marlies, and being a solid veteran backup for Kaskisuo.

Calvin Pickard

Ceiling: Brought to the Leafs last year to provide a bit more depth in the crease, Pickard ended up being a solid backup for the Marlies, and even managed to play a game with the Leafs in late December for them.

Before this season, Pickard was a really good back up for the Colorado Avalanche, and had great numbers before getting thrown into 50 games with one of the worst teams to ever play the game, the 2016-17 Colorado Avalanche.

I’d say that Pickard’s ceiling for this season is making the team, and being a backup that can play more games than Curtis McElhinney, and perform slightly better than him as well.

Floor: I know I made the rule for these that I’m assuming these players stayed with the team, but considering the situation with the goalies, I’m going to include trading as a part of their floor.

Which is the case for Pickard, as I’d say his floor would see him either clear waivers and play for the Marlies again, or get traded to a team in need of a goalie.

Oct 2, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Garret Sparks (40) covers up on a loose puck against the Montreal Canadiens during a preseason hockey game at Air Canada Centre. The Maple Leafs beat the Canadiens 3-2 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Garret Sparks

Ceiling: Finally, we have Garret Sparks, who has been in the Leafs organization since 2011, and has consistently been an excellent AHL goalie, capped off by his 2017-18 season where he was the best goalie in the AHL.

As for what to expect from him in the NHL, it’s still really hard to get a grasp. He was inconsistent during his time with the 2015-16 Leafs, but that was also the worst team in the league, and it was also two years ago. Sparks has made some progress, and the Leafs have gotten better.

His ceiling will probably be similar to Pickard’s tho, where he’ll make the team out of camp and be a solid backup, playing more games than McElhinney to give Freddy more of a rest for playoffs.

Floor: Also like Pickard, his floor will be very similar, where he’ll either play for the Marlies, or get traded to anther team. Not that playing for the Marlies to defend his title would be a really bad thing anyways.

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    • Skill2Envy

      Pickard is the better goalie in my opinion and has an NHL body of work to draw from. Sparks doesn’t seem to play an NHL style and is more reactionary in movement instead of playing square to the shot.

      That being said, Sparks has proven an NHL opportunity is warranted. I’d look to trade him because of his high value and thinking Pickard is better. Granted I wouldn’t be upset either if Sparks is Andersen’s backup.