From the day he first arrived in Toronto back in 2016 up until today, Frederik Andersen has remained one of the Leafs’ biggest x-factors each and every season. The team would only be able to go as far as he could take them and that has usually meant the decisive game of the first round. While just getting to the postseason the first time around was a blessing, the fanbase has since been clamouring for the team to do something they haven’t done since 2004: win a playoff round.
To this point, Andersen has yet to push his team over that final hurdle needed to advance deeper into spring whilst sporting a putrid 0-8 record in his last eight series-deciding games. With little time left for him to redeem himself in the playoffs and rumblings about his future, it’s starting to become apparent that his tenure as a Leaf is nearing its conclusion.
This is why Andersen’s number is 1.
It’s how many years are left on the five-year contract he signed with the Leafs shortly after being acquired in a trade with the Anaheim Ducks. And by the time his contract expires, Andersen will likely have to head elsewhere for his next payday.
What can’t be denied is the fact that for the most part, Andersen has been reliably consistent during the regular season. In 244 games as a Leaf, he has a 136-66-33 record, posted 13 shutouts, a .917 SV% and a 2.77 GAA. Besides the past campaign, his numbers across the board are alarmingly similar which is all you can ask from a goalie. The issue arises when you look at what he’s done during the playoffs. While his SV% and GAA remain aligned (.916 and 2.78 respectively), he has a 10-14 postseason record along with being 0-3 in series clinchers.
After the Leafs lost Game 5 against the Columbus Blue Jackets, I wrote an in-depth piece of my frustrations with Andersen’s continued struggles in the playoffs. Here’s a snippet from said article:
The problem lies in the fact that in spite of all that, Andersen continues to struggle in keeping his team in the playoffs. This has now been four straight years of stagnation with the Leafs not being able to advance past the first round. It’s also hard to recall moments throughout Andersen’s time in the playoffs where he stole a game the Leafs didn’t play well in. The only one that comes to mind is Game 3 back in 2018, which included this stick save on David Pastrnak. Want to know what else is hard to comprehend? In all four series Toronto has played since the start of the Auston Matthews era, Andersen got outplayed by the opposing netminder. This year, he got bested by two (!) goalies despite playing better than he ever has in the playoffs. Let’s not forget that as thrilling as the comeback win in Game 4 was, part of why they had to dig themselves out of the hole was from Andersen giving up a couple of bad markers. So it seems that even when he is playing statistically well, it’s still not good enough to help his team advance in the playoffs.
Herein lies the problem when it comes to Andersen: he has yet to be the best goalie in a playoff series and he’s running out of opportunities to achieve that. You can argue that the team in front of him didn’t play well defensively or failed to provide him with offensive support, but we have seen this same old song and dance each passing spring.
It’s not all doom and gloom for the Danish netminder because he enters the shortened 2021 campaign with a chip on his shoulders. Andersen knows full-well that he is in the last year of his contract and wants to secure a larger salary once free agency opens in late July. There’s also plenty of competition in the crease for starts with the additions of Jack Campbell and Aaron Dell, both of whom have found success in the NHL elsewhere. Most importantly, the Leafs have made vast improvements on the defensive side of things with the likes of TJ Brodie and Zach Bogosian arriving to shore up the blue line.
This has all the ingredients needed for Andersen to have a big campaign that rebounds his numbers compared to the year prior and perhaps pushes his team beyond the opening round. It all hinges on him stepping up his game not just during the regular season, but also once the playoffs start because his legacy as a Leaf will be on the line.
Should he fail yet again to elevate his team through the postseason, then he will depart Toronto as a goalie who was reliable during the regular season but faltered when it mattered most. You might think this is unfair for Andersen since he’s had little to work with during the first four years, but this is the reality of playing on a team that has not won a Stanley Cup since 1967. Expectations are high and the city is craving for the drought to end, so part of making that happen falls on the goalie to deliver in the clutch.
With one year remaining on his contract, Andersen is running out of chances to get the Leafs past the first round. He will either rise to the occasion or revert back to bad habits if he gains one last shot at exorcising his and the team’s playoff demons.
All salary information is from PuckPedia.com.