When the Toronto Maple Leafs signed Petr Mrazek, he was supposed to be 1B – sharing duties with his 1A counterpart Jack Campbell – but the duo fell apart on the first day of the season. Not the start you are looking for.
Twenty-three games into the season, the Toronto Maple Leafs sit atop the Atlantic for the first time since the division’s realignment (2013-14) – and they’ve done so with no more than 100 minutes of Petr Mrazek at the controls.
Meanwhile, Jack Campbell has taken the Leafs by the horns and shows no signs of letting up.
Rewind to the offseason as question marks remained over Jack Campbell’s ability to be the undisputed No. 1 guy, the Toronto Maple Leafs had to take out insurance.
Now that the presumptuous Plan A has come true after all, with a capable and injury-free replacement in Joseph Woll, it’s time for the Leafs to start looking for Petr Mrazek takers.
He’s obviously useless — a useless insurance policy the Leafs no longer need.
They say prevention is better than cure, and the Leafs were safe.
They also say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” and the Leafs aren’t broke.
Toronto Maple Leafs: The (real) rise of Jack Campbell
Under the watchful eye of Leafs Nation, Campbell’s path from Los Angeles to Toronto is well marked.
And Leafs Nation has grown to love him (who doesn’t love a genuine, nice guy?)
Campbell’s only real worry is his health – but it’s a constant concern for every goaltender and every team.
Campbell’s numbers were exceptional last year. It was a revelation.
This year they are even better! And there are no surprises this time around, because Leafs Nation expects it. Best of all, Campbell didn’t back down; in fact, he rose to the challenge, and some might even say his game improved.
He is now clearly the undisputed #1 the Toronto Maple Leafs had hoped for.
The (re)emergence of Joseph Woll
Joseph Woll took a long time to come. It’s been brewing, albeit slowly and not exactly appealingly, in the miners for years.
Supporting USA in two matches at the 2017 WJHC en route to a gold medal and then in 2018 with a bronze medal, you could see his potential. But then it became an afterthought as quickly as it became promising.
An example of good things that come to those who wait — and proof that goaltenders take longer to develop (he’s just 23) — the Leafs are now looking for a backup goaltender they can rely on. If it looks like Jack Campbell’s learning curve, you wouldn’t be wrong. Perhaps the most glaring difference is that the Toronto Maple Leafs drafted him and topped the 3rd round – 62nd overall – in 2016.
In the small 3-game sample – roughly the same as Mrazek’s – his 1.67 GAA and 0.939 SV% look much better than what Mrazek showed, and at this point not only is he a better keeper than goal, but perhaps more importantly, he is more than capable of being a substitute – and a more reliable one at that.
The (pre)fall of Petr Mrazek
Two periods in his first game as a Leaf, Mrazek suffered what would be (another) groin injury in a history of groin injuries. It was October 14.
Sixteen days later he returned to the net, only for it to be premature. It was October 30. Tomorrow marks December. And not playing for more than a month, he is far from in season playing form.
And if he pushes it into such conditioning, and as his injury history suggests, he’s likely to suffer (another) setback. For the Leafs to be among the best in the league this year, all without his services, excuse me for forgetting he’s even on the team. (all nhl.com stats).
With a stat line of 4.20 GAA and 0.877 SV% in 100 minutes of play, I’m not excited about his return to the game. And when he does – if he does – I hope he will behave well – but, for all the wrong reasons.
It’s time to ride the wave
I’d love to see the Toronto Maple Leafs move on from Peter Mrazek and continue to ride the wave they’re on right now – the one without Petr Mrazek as a “reliable” 1B.
Instead, it would be nice to have some extra cap space to play with, which could be used to bolster the Leafs forwards, defense, or even the goalie down the stretch. The Leafs could earn a big addition — someone to be excited for — a real difference maker.
A ceiling of $3.8 million is not ridiculous to assume. And some teams are looking for goalies. It’s not too much of a stretch for them to take a chance like the Leafs did — especially if the Leafs don’t demand much in return.