The Maple Leafs should consider moving on from Ilya Samsonov

Photo credit:Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Shane Seney
2 months ago
The Toronto Maple Leafs have an Ilya Samsonov problem.
It doesn’t matter if you’re team eye-test or an analytical mind who loves statistics, the Russian netminder is lost and it’s becoming quite worrisome for the Maple Leafs.
Samsonov is 5-1-5 with a 3.51 GAA and .878 SV.%, and there’s been way too many instances throughout his 13 appearances where he’s either lost complete sight of the puck and couldn’t track it, or he’s able to slide over in time, but not finish off the save and the next thing you know the red light goes on. There have been some messy times and after his recent performance against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday, Samsonov wasn’t made available to the media.
Head coach Sheldon Keefe admitted he was considering pulling Samsonov after he let in the fifth goal against the Blue Jackets, however goalie coach Curtis Sanford vouched for Sammy and convinced the bench boss otherwise. If Samsonov has another stinker and let’s in a couple of early ones, Keefe won’t be so kind.
Sportsnet’s Luke Fox reported from the Leafs’ dressing room after Thursday’s ugly performance and it seems like the support system is in place, and rightfully so:
The way Samsonov’s head hung low postgame, the way his eyes stared vacant, and the fact he was the only Maple Leaf still in gear, sitting still and speechless in his stall — that tells you the goalie sees this overtime loss as half-empty. Sanford walked over and whispered some words of encouragement to Samsonov in the dressing room. GM Brad Treliving gave him a reassuring tap as he walked by, too. No Leaf dared utter a critical word about their starting goaltender, and the team declined to make Samsonov available to the microphones and cameras.
If this isn’t rock-bottom, it’s certainly close and while Treliving may be friendly with his reassuring taps on the shoulder, it’s a results-driven business and right now the results are nowhere to be found.

Samsonov’s Currently One of the Worst Goalies in the NHL

While many will point to last season and mention the fact the former first-round pick put up career-best numbers in almost every category, we’re talking sports here, where the ‘what have you done for me lately?’ theory applies. Three wins in his last 11 appearances, here’s a few more stats to consider:
Goals Saved Above Expected: (Min:8GP) -6.0NHL Rank: 55
Save % Above Expected: (Min:8GP)-.009NHL Rank: 55
Save %: (Min:6GP).878NHL Rank: 63
Goals Against Average: (Min:6GP)3.51NHL Rank: 58
It’s wild to think Samsonov’s managed to pull out five wins this season considering how bad he’s playing. Fans let both Samsonov and the team in front of him hear it throughout the Blue Jackets game with several Bronx cheers, and if things continue to trend in the wrong direction, the noise will only get louder and frankly, it could become nightmare fuel for the Maple Leafs’ netminder.
Our resident goalie insider Carter Hutton recently co-hosted Leafs Morning Take with Nick Alberga and broke down what he saw out of Samsonov’s game against the New York Islanders earlier this week. As Hutton puts it, Samsonov is playing a lazy game and is getting burned:

Maple Leafs Have Options to Consider

GM Brad Treliving should 100% consider his options when it comes to the Maple Leafs crease. While he wasn’t responsible for initially bringing Samsonov to Toronto, he did re-sign him to a one-year deal last summer. However, that doesn’t mean he’s handcuffed himself.
We saw Treliving go out and sign Martin Jones as an experience third goalie and with Joseph Woll shelved with an ankle sprain, Jones is up with the big club and has already recorded his first two wins in blue and white. With Woll not expected back for a few weeks, Jones should be getting more of a serious look and will likely start on Saturday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
There’s also top goalie prospect Dennis Hildeby, who has appeared in 10 games for the AHL’s Toronto Marlies and let’s just say he’s gone full ‘Hilde-beast’ mode. He has a 5-3-2 record, with a very impressive 1.80 GAA, good for second in the AHL, and a .927 Sv.%, good for fourth in the AHL.
Hildeby is only 22 years old and this is his first full season in North America, but you can’t dismiss the body of work. Regardless of the small sample size, the 6-foot-6 netminder is playing big in net and continues to turn heads within the Leafs’ organization. With Woll hurt and with the potential of some more cap space to work with should Ryan Reaves likely hit the injured reserve, Treliving needs to give some serious thought to calling up Hildeby for a start or two. His confidence is sky high at the moment and it’s the perfect time to see how his game translates at the NHL level.
Samsonov needs a break, he needs to completely reset his game and his mind and try to do whatever he can to get his confidence back. As for the Maple Leafs’ GM, Treliving could have signed Samsonov to a long-term contract last summer and chose not to. As it stands right now, that may have been the GM’s best move so far.

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