Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonov — your Maple Leafs goaltending tandem on opening night — are you ready for it?
It’s been an interesting week for Toronto, first trading away Petr Mrazek to Chicago at the draft and moving down a few picks. Many knew it was going to be a slim goaltending market with Jack Campbell likely headed to Edmonton, but I don’t know if anyone saw the Maple Leafs going out and getting Murray right before free agency began.
The same for Samsonov on Wednesday — Toronto didn’t know he was going to be a free agent until a few days prior to July 13th. The 25-year-old pretty much fell into their lap. Now, the question is, can one of them, or maybe even both of them, turn out to be a good pickup?
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If you were watching TSN’s goaltending panel on Wednesday, you know what they all thought. This is going to be a disaster.
The fact of the matter, though, is that it likely won’t be a calamity. Both netminders are coming into this organization with something to prove. Samsonov, to show that he can return to the form he had when he entered the NHL. Murray, to prove that he’s not injury prone and that he can make it in a market that’s tough on its goaltenders.
Not to mention the fact that Samsonov signed a one-year, $1.8 million deal. If that’s not bet on yourself material, I don’t know what is.
To the fans who are stressed about these moves, though, I totally understand the frustration. Toronto has likely two seasons left to get it right — after that, well, Auston Matthews could pick up and leave. The Maple Leafs went from having a solidified starter (Frederik Andersen) to having a possible solidified starter (Jack Campbell), to now having two mystery boxes.
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One thing I know is that not many people like mystery boxes.
But was Andersen a solidified starter? In the final two seasons of his deal, he never finished with over a .910 save percentage. Looking at the playoffs, too, Andersen was lights out — until the odd bounce somehow found its way behind him. Not to mention the inconsistencies in his game at some points of a season.
Remember October Freddy?
Even when we discuss Campbell, many liked him and at times, he was a great goaltender. But you knew what you were going to get — starter material goaltending until his body broke down because he wasn’t used to playing more than 25 games in a season.
It was like a ticking time bomb that everyone knew was eventually going to blow up. We just didn’t know when.
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Don’t get me wrong, Campbell was an amazing goalie for Toronto, but the flaws were right in front of us. Add that together with the fact that he commanded too much term — not bringing him back made sense.
Goaltending is a mystery box at the beginning of every year. It’s the most important position in hockey and if there’s an injury, your train starts to veer off the tracks. Even without injuries, goaltenders can just fall off out of the blue.
It’s like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.
For the Maple Leafs, though, they’re going to get two players who want to prove themselves. They will want to show the NHL world and Toronto that there’s still more to give. If the two netminders can, great. If they cannot, well, it’s going to be an interesting season.
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