The Toronto Maple Leafs have made headlines for multiple reasons this season. The obvious one is the rookie star Auston Matthews, but the behind the scenes headline is the revolving door that the Leafs have created for goaltenders.
It all started last season with the re-signing of Jonathan Bernier, who didn’t stay for long. His story will be coming later in the article.
Not only were the Maple Leafs involved in this craziness, but their American Hockey League affiliates, the Toronto Marlies, were as well. The transaction list from the 2015-2016 season is huge, and involves Garret Sparks and Antoine Bibeau quite a bit.
Sparks and Bibeau were both recalled, and re-assigned numerous times throughout the season. After Bernier was placed on the Injured Reserve for a lower-body injury, he missed a little more than a week of play-time. Bibeau was sent back down to the AHL after he returned.
James Reimer was the starter during this time, and went 3-0-0. He was named the third start of the week for his performance. After his short stint, he was named the starting goaltender for the Maple Leafs.
However, after a lot of chaos, Reimer was placed on the IR, and Bernier was sent to the AHL for a conditioning. As a result, Bibeau and Sparks were the new goaltenders for the Maple Leafs.
There was a lot more shifting around, after numerous injuries came to all four goaltenders. Sparks was even sent to the East Coast Hockey League for a couple days, and came back to a new teammate a couple weeks later. Alex Stalock was brought to the Maple Leafs after they traded away Reimer to the San Jose Sharks.
Kasimir Kaskisuo was also brought on to the Leafs, but was never put in to guard the net. With the Marlies about to win the Calder Cup, Sparks was the starter for the Marlies. He eventually won the Cup for the Marlies.
To end the crazy season, Toronto received Frederik Andersen through a trade with the Anaheim Ducks, but had to give up two draft picks. The Maple Leafs now had three goaltenders going into the new season, with Bernier also with Anaheim now.
Anderson, Sparks, and Bibeau were all fighting for the starting position at the beginning of the 2016-2017 season. Anderson received a 5-year extension from the Leafs, and Sparks was re-signed as a restricted free agent.
In August, the Leafs brought on Jhonas Enroth. Coming from the Los Angeles Kings, signed primarily to be the back-up for Jonathan Quick. He finished the season with 16 games played (9-3-1).
Kaskisuo was sent down to the AHL, and was joined five days later by Sparks and Bibeau, leaving Enroth and Andersen to net-mind for the Maple Leafs. Straying away from the Marlies and Maple Leafs, Kasimir Kaskisuo was sent down to the ECHL with Orlando Solar Bears.
Enroth struggled in the few games he played, playing only six games (0-3-1). Andersen had to step in for Enroth more than once. He was eventually waived, and cleared waivers in order to be sent to the Marlies.
Due to a lot of goaltenders with the Marlies, Enroth only played three games (2-1-0). After the Leafs received Curtis McElhinney off of the waivers, Enroth was traded to the Anaheim Ducks (noticing a trend?) in the early hours on January 11.
What’s Happening Now
Now that the chaos seems to be calming down for the rest of the season, hopefully the Maple Leafs can maintain a steady group of goaltenders. They head into the end of January in third place in the Atlantic Division, but it’s still anybody’s game.
However, their AHL counterpart isn’t holding up to the legacy they had last year, even though they still have Sparks as their starting goaltender. They are in the last place in the North Division (14-19-3) with 33 points.
Looking aside from goal-tending, the production levels are good from the offensive standpoint. Matthews is leading scoring with 38 points (22 G, 16 A), with James van Riemsdyk (16 G, 20 A – 36 P) and Mitchell Marner (10 G, 26 A – 36 P) following closely behind.
After a last place finish from the 2015-2016 season, the Leafs have a legitimate chance to touch the Stanley Cup at the end of this season, especially if the goaltenders can stick around, and keep the level of play where they are now.