Samsonov clears: The Maple Leafs will try to reset Ilya Samsonov with more practice time

Photo credit:Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Shane Seney
6 months ago
From a career-best season, to starting opening night, to now being put on waivers and ‘sent down’ to the minors, Ilya Samsonov has fallen from grace.
Samsonov hasn’t been himself this season, and it’s taken a serious toll on him to say the very least. The Maple Leafs opening night starter has lost his confidence, he can’t seem to track the puck at all during games and Leafs GM Brad Treliving had no choice but to waive him to start 2024. Toronto called up top goalie prospect Dennis Hildeby on Monday and the ‘Hildebeast’ is expected to start on Wednesday night against the Anaheim Ducks, the second of a back-to-back in sunny California.

Samsonov Won’t Play in AHL Games

According to goaltending guru Kevin Weekes, the Maple Leafs aren’t likely given Samsonov any run with the Toronto Marlies in the AHL and he’s expected to practice, practice, practice with anyone in the organization who feels like watching:
In all seriousness the Maple Leafs are going to dig deep into their resources and essentially make Samsonov’s recovery a major project for the organization. Toronto is lucky to have deep pockets when it comes to secondary positions and have a number of very qualified professionals who will help dissect Samsonov’s game, look back at his career season in 2022-23 and see what’s going on and what can be pin-pointed as major issues in his game.

What’s Gone Wrong This Season?

It’s hard to put a finger on just one thing but from the start of the season it’s seemed like Samsonov has had problems tracking the puck. He continues to look on the wrong side of traffic in front and there’s been countless shots this season he hasn’t seen and only moves once the puck hits the boards after missing the net.
Tracking will be on the list, staying quiet will be on the list, and expect to see the Maple Leafs use several different practice techniques this week back in Toronto while the team travels to California for three games. Perhaps the most head-scratching part of this whole ordeal is the fact the Leafs feel Samsonov has been absolutely fantastic in practice and that’s been a trend since day one of training camp. Unfortunately, it has not translated to success during games.
Samsonov has posted a 5-2-6 record in his 15 appearances this season, including a 3.94 GAA and a dismal .862 SV.%. The Leafs are hopeful after a week of being dissected in practice, he’ll be ready to get back in the crease, likely January 11 on Long Island against the Islanders.
As for where the Maple Leafs go from here. Look for Martin Jones to start against his former teams, taking the first and third games of the road trip against the LA Kings and San Jose Sharks, with Hildeby likely getting the nod in the second of a back-to-back against the Ducks. If Hildeby gets a shut out, it could complicate everything, but it does feel like Toronto’s plan is to just give the 22-year-old one start and send him back down to the Marlies.

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