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Coaching search aside, the Leafs need to zero in on a goalie

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Photo credit:James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Nick Alberga
1 month ago
Even though there’s no question that a coaching change was long overdue in Toronto, it’s important not to lose sight of the big picture.
The first question for whoever comes in to replace Keefe should revolve around the crease and what the Maple Leafs plan to do with the position this summer.
If the team can’t get a save when it matters the most, not even the legendary Scotty Bowman would be able to extract postseason success from this roster.
Plain and simple.
First and foremost, there’s no way you can bring back Ilya Samsonov. The 27-year-old, who’s slated to hit unrestricted free agency on July 1st, had a rollercoaster two-year stint in Toronto. On any given night, there was no telling what Samsonov you were going to get, which went hand and hand with the team in front of him. It was a fun experiment, but rest assured, you can’t rely on that guy. It’s time for both parties to move on from each other, which looks like the firm direction they’re headed.
Then there’s Joseph Woll. The 25-year-old’s immensely talented, but unfortunately, he just can’t stay healthy. Woll was a monster for the Leafs in Games 5 and 6 to give them a chance in a winner-take-all setting. Unfortunately, though, due to injury, he was unable to go in the most important game of the season. Bottom line: It’s fair to wonder if you can depend on him or not.
Meantime, it would be unfair to include Dennis Hildeby in this conversation. The 22-year-old’s still very green, and at this point, it would be unrealistic to suggest he’s ready to step into a tandem with Woll. The Leafs need to be patient with him. He’s not the immediate answer to fortify things.
Needless to say, it’s been a long time since the Leafs had someone they could count on in between the pipes. Undoubtedly, the volatility surrounding the position over the past few years had to have produced a grey hair or two for Keefe. Seriously, it felt like the 43-year-old greyed overnight after taking the job from Mike Babcock in November 2019.
Any way you slice it, it’s tough to win in the NHL with incompetent netminding. Over the past decade alone, we’ve seen way too many Michael Hutchinson’s and not nearly enough Curtis Joseph’s. It’s imperative for Brad Treliving and company to go out there and find a way to solidify the crease —once and for all.
Show us a good coach, we’ll show you a good goalie.

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