We are onto day three of sharing our midseason survey results, and the focus has shifted to areas of the organization that often need a vote of confidence down the stretch. I asked the TLN crew to share their thoughts on the Samsonov/Murray tandem as well as give their opinions on Sheldon Keefe. As you’d expect with a team doing as well as the Leafs, the results are largely favourable.

On Goaltending:

What are your thoughts on the state of the Leafs goaltending?
(Please note these answers came in before the weekend games so there had been a recent eight game drop off that might have influenced some responses.)
Colin Hunter:
I still feel relatively positive about the Leafs’ goaltending. Goaltending is a position that is subject to a high level of variance in play. However, the play of both Murray and Samsonov has been significant enough to make me believe that they can provide at least league-average goaltending in the long run. While it would help, the Leafs are not a team that need elite-level goaltending to win, and I see Murray and/or Samsonov as capable enough at this point.
Ryan Hobart: 
Really happy with it, relative to what we have. Murray was a hot potato no one wanted to touch, but the Leafs have made good use of him this season. Samsonov was a wildcard coming in and he has been incredible in this first half. Even if he trails off in the second half, I’ll have a positive feeling about the Leafs having him around.
Michael Mazzei:
Both Murray and Samsonov have been mostly stellar since arriving in Toronto, and the only major concern I have is the durability of the two netminders long-term. Kallgren has been fine when being relied upon and has done his job as the team’s third-stringer. He has gotten a lot more flack than he deserves, especially during a stretch when he was the Leafs’ only healthy option in net available. Woll and Petruzzeli will likely factor into things in the years to come, while the rest of the depth that are not signed to NHL deals yet are intriguing options to say the least. So long as everyone can stay healthy, the Leafs do not have to worry much about their goalies.
Dylan Murphy:
Happily surprised. As I stated when asked about the biggest surprise of the season- goaltending was easily the biggest question mark coming into this year, but both Samsonov and Murray have exceeded expectations and, despite recent lulls, have established themselves as one of the better tandems in the league.
Steven Ellis:
Right now, it’s easy to get concerned. But we see this year after year. The good news is depth is better than it has been in quite some time.
Bennett Jull:
Overall it’s in good shape. Obviously both goalies have gone through a rougher patch recently, but more importantly, both have shown that they can play, and play at an elite level. I personally have more faith in Samsonov, but I believe both goaltenders will put in some quality starts here shortly. The Leafs don’t need elite goaltending to win, and I think both goalies can be at least average contributors.
Nick Barden:
It’s a rollercoaster and it always will be. They’ve been really solid and now they’re not doing so well. I think the best course of action is to continue to ride it out and maybe hope that things return to the way they were early on in the season.
Joseph Zita:
Little worried about the goaltending as of right now but at the same time this team just needs to be playing better team defence in front of them for the goalies to both succeed.
James Reeve:
Consistency is key. If both have get over their recent struggles, they can be a solid duo.
Mike Westlake:
The goaltending has come back down to earth in terms of how I was expecting them to perform. I would describe them as “shaky”. We’ve controlled most games so I would argue that our defence are actually still doing really well. I think our team is too good for our goalies to have consistently bad nights like as of recent.
Jon Steitzer:
The results so far have exceeded expectations, but to say that I feel confident at all in it is a lie. We’ve seen Samsonov slide a bit, we know how the wheels can come off for Murray, and we’ve had too long of a stretch where Erik Kallgren had to be the number 1. Best case scenario sees both goaltenders healthy and ready to go come playoff time and to that extent, I wonder if it would be worthwhile to carry 3 goaltenders on the roster post trade deadline to give their tandem a bit of rest and have Kallgren as the every night backup with the occasional start mixed in.

On Sheldon Keefe:

What are your thoughts on Sheldon Keefe as a coach? 
Jon Steitzer:
Let’s start off with Sheldon Keefe being a perfectly adequate coach and this year has seen him at his best. However, it’s very easy to cite a lot of impressive regular season winning percentages that coincide with the Leafs having one of their most talented rosters ever. Keefe is a fine coach, but for a team like the Leafs that can pay to have the best and pay to locate the best outside the NHL, it seems like Keefe is an exercise in settling and having everyone fall back on the fact that he plays the roster the way the Kyle Dubas intended him to. There very much is something to be said for a coach and GM on the same page.
That being said, I don’t believe that Keefe brings nearly as much to the table as Dubas does. He is capable of identifying the issues with his team, but he is often incapable of addressing them or slow to do so. He falls back too much on playing his way and isn’t adaptive enough when his way has been countered by an opponent. It feels like a lot of the problems that existed in year one of Sheldon Keefe still exists today, it’s just the regular season masks a lot of those issues because a talented team can get away with a lot more when teams aren’t tailoring their games to their opponent.
Mike Westlake:
Sheldon has been great this season in many ways. Firstly, he has been experimenting with a lot of lineup changes including the 5-forward power play unit, moving Willy to the first line and the shuffle of our bottom 6. This can open up a lot of opportunities for different strategies in the playoffs. Secondly, Sheldon’s emotions during the games are not only great entertainment, but serves as a level at which he is invested in. There’s a lot at stake this season and Keefe might be first to go if this season doesn’t go as it needs to.
James Reeve:
The right man for the job.
Nick Richard:
The Leafs have steadily improved – at least in the regular season – each year that Keefe has been behind the bench and he is among the all-time greats in terms of winning percentage as a coach. He still has to lead this team to some sort of playoff success but I think the way he has gotten the team to buy in defensively speaks to his ability to identify problems, as well as solutions to those problems, and communicate those things to his players effectively. Given the injuries that the Leafs have dealt with this season and how little it has seemed to effect the team’s overall performance, I think it is fair to say that Keefe has done an outstanding job with the team this season.
Joseph Zita:
He’s a really good coach in my opinion. Yes, he can be stubborn, but a lot of coaches in the league can be. Keefe has shown to do things that previous coaches for the Leafs haven’t and he’s not afraid to try out new things on the ice.
Nick Barden:
He has one of the best regular season records as a head coach, so he must be doing a good job, right? As much as the season can have its ups and downs, I’d say the real time to judge him is in the playoffs because that’s when it matters. Either way, he’s been a great coach for this team.
Bennett Jull:
I like him. I love when he gets fired up, his anger is awesome. I think he has done a good job in moving the forwards around to see what he has. He has tried different players in different spots, and eventually found combinations that work. Kudos to him for interchanging the big 4, and for getting the best out of Kerfoot and Engvall more recently.
Steven Ellis:
When things are flying high, I don’t feel like he gets enough praise. He has had to deal with some significant injuries on the back end this year but it seems to be working out.
Dylan Murphy:
Keefe is a great coach. He’s well-respected by everyone (except the refs) and his record does not lie, he’s making a name for himself as one of the stronger coaches the Leafs have ever had.
Michael Mazzei:
It still baffles me that there so many calling for Sheldon Keefe’s head and drooling at the prospect of the Leafs bringing in someone like Barry Trotz. Keefe has done well as the bench boss over the past four regular seasons and has helped guide them to their best finish in franchise history. While that success has not yet translated in the playoffs, it is safe to say that Toronto is better off with him than without him.
Ryan Hobart:
He’s a players coach, it seems. He’s not too hard on the guys unless the season is really on the line. I’m not a systematically sound person at all, but the on-ice stats have been better with him than his predecessor, so that seems like a win, systems wise. He’s Dubas’ guy but if it comes down to Dubas’ job being on the line, the head coach is a relatively easy lever to flip and get a stay of execution, so if the Leafs falter in the playoffs again, I won’t be surprised to see Keefe go.
Colin Hunter:
For the vast majority of coaches, I have a hard time trying to evaluate them without inside knowledge of their locker room management, strategic decisions, etc. To me, he hasn’t been making any egregious decisions when it comes to lineups or deployments, and has one of the best winning percentages in the history of the sport since getting the job with the Leafs. That’s good enough for me, for now.
I guess I need to own being Sheldon Keefe’s harshest critic on the site. To elaborate, I feel a lot of the praise that Keefe gets might be better suited for Dean Chynoweth, but I will also say that Colin is right on the money when he says that without inside knowledge and with no egregious decisions being made, it’s tough to find fault.
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So now it’s your turn to let us know what you think. Weigh in on the Leafs goaltending and coaching situations in the comments or on our twitter account.