The Toronto Maple Leafs are out of excuses and must face the reality the club needs to find a new backup goaltender in order to make the playoffs.
Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager Kyle Dubas has failed his team when it comes to securing proper support between the pipes behind starting goaltender Frederik Andersen. Dubas’ biggest mistake in his young-NHL career was allowing Curtis McElhinney to get away for free on waivers at the beginning of the 2018-19 season and it’s haunted his team ever since.
A year ago, Dubas showed loyalty to Garrett Sparks, who won the Calder Cup in the AHL for the Toronto Marlies. Unfortunately, that display of loyalty couldn’t have blown up in his’ face any worse, as Sparks’ tenure with the Maple Leafs ended with the team simply asking him to go away. He had fallen so far out of favor, Toronto viewed it’s best option to succeed was to have him stay at home and be as far away from the Maple Leafs as possible.
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Fast forward to this year, and current back up Michael Hutchinson is approaching similar territory. Early on the excuse for his poor play was he was always getting the second game of the team’s back-to-back games and thus the teammates in front of him weren’t at their best. However, after Hutchinson’s recent 6-4 loss to the Buffalo Sabres where the Maple Leafs held a 2-0 lead, the back-to-back theory has gone out the window.
The truth is Hutchinson is not an NHL caliber goaltender. His 0-5-1 record along with a 4.55 goals-against average and .876% save percentage is more than enough proof to cement Hutchinson’s status as a minor-league goalie.
The problem the Maple Leafs face is they have no options in the minors either. Kasimir Kaskisuo was called up for a game and gave up six goals in his only NHL start, suggesting he’s also not capable of competing in the NHL either.
This mess falls entirely on Dubas. He had a proven NHL veteran in McElhinney who he let walk out the door. Dubas has done nothing but attempt to find band-aid fixes since. It has cost his team greatly as the Maple Leafs have lost all eight Andersen hasn’t played and given up a combined 34 goals. Averaging nearly five goals per game that Andersen doesn’t play is not the resume of a playoff team.
A year ago, when Sparks couldn’t win a game, it cost the Maple Leafs home ice in the first round of the playoffs against the Boston Bruins. It might not have changed the outcome of that first-round series but it could have. At the very least perhaps the butterfly effect of opening the series at home doesn’t have Nazem Kadri feeling so hostile in Toronto that he was in Boston to the point he gets suspended for the rest of the series.
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The Maple Leafs will never know, but one thing everybody else knows is if Dubas can’t find a legitimate backup in the immediate future than the Maple Leafs won’t be hosting any playoff games next spring.