1967 was a long time ago.
In 1967, gas was 27 cents a gallon. Lester B. Pearson was prime minister of Canada. Lyndon B. Johnson was president of the United States. There were only six teams in the National Hockey League in the spring of 1967…and both Johnny Bower and Terry Sawchuk backstopped the Toronto Maple Leafs to their 13th…and last Stanley Cup championship in 1967.
Oh, how the world has changed.
Years of Net Futility
The Toronto Maple Leafs have not been kind to goaltenders. Since their last Cup win, names like Mike Palmeteer, Johnny Bower, Bernie Parent, Dunc Wilson, Allan Bester, Jeff Reese, Grant Fuhr, Felix Potvin, Curtis Joseph, Ed Belfour, Andrew Raycroft, Vesa Toskala, James Reimer, and Jonathan Bernier have all graced the crease in both Maple Leaf Gardens and the Air Canada Centre. Aside Bower and Sawchuk, these names…and countless others…all have one thing in common:
They have not delivered a Stanley Cup to the passionate fans of Toronto.
City Desperate for Cup
Toronto is a hockey city. The fans in this city have been ravenous for a Stanley Cup for decades, yet years of bad luck mismanagement have kept the silver chalice from gracing the city of Toronto outside the Hockey Hall of Fame.
The Leafs have been blessed with some exceptional goaltenders in their history. Most recently, one only has to look at Felix Potvin and his runs in 1993 and 1994. 1993 was particularly bitter, as the Leafs came within a fortuitous bounce off a Dave Ellett skate of advancing to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1967. In the year of the 100th anniversary of the Stanley Cup, the hockey world came within a lucky deflection of seeing a Toronto Maple Leafs/Montreal Canadiens Final…an original six matchup that would have been one for the ages.
Curtis Joseph took the Leafs on some memorable playoff runs, as did Ed Belfour--but the team always fell just short. Toronto has also spent years outside of the playoff picture looking in, like some shunned child just dying to be popular looks at the popular crowd as they walk by. Toronto has been the laughing stock of the league for years, due to bad trades, bad management, and sheer bad luck.
Toronto is desperate for playoff success.
Andersen the Leafs’ Save-ior?
Fast forward to the 2016-17 season. Toronto now enjoys the hockey management of Brendan Shanahan and Lou Lamoriello. They have a resurgence of youth in the form of players like Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, Morgan Rielly, and Nikita Zaitsev. They have a good mix of veteran presence and youthful exuberance. They took the league leading Washington Capitals to six hard fought playoff games before eventually falling to the more experienced Capitals. It should be noted that all six games were decided by only one goal.
And the Leafs now have another name to add to the goaltending carousel. Frederik Andersen is the latest to stand in the bright spotlight that is the goal crease of the Toronto Maple Leafs. He has been both terrible and spectacular. He shone against the Capitals, but also managed to allow a soft goal in some critical situations.
Andersen came to the Leafs via trade from the Anaheim Ducks. He joined Toronto with much fanfare, as one of the brightest young goaltenders in the game. For the most part, he has lived up to the hype. The crease in Toronto can be one of the most ruthless places to play in the NHL. He has led the Leafs to the playoffs once, and has them within a few points of first in their division. But can he remain consistent?
The Leafs raised a lot of expectations early on as they seemingly outscored their opposition at will. Andersen’s numbers took some staggering hits, allowing five goals in an 8-5 win over the New York Rangers, and then allowing another six goals in the Leafs’ first loss of the season, a 6-3 debacle against the New Jersey Devils. There have been some spectacular performances by Andersen in this season, and then there have been the forgettable moments…such as making a seemingly impossible glove grab on one flurry around his goal, then allowing a long floater to elude him on the very next shot. But in recent games, Andersen has found some consistency, and he currently sports a 14-7-1 record this season. That record carries a 2.71 Goals-Against-Average and a .919 save percentage.
Is Frederik Andersen the man who could snap the Stanley Cup drought in Toronto? Of course, it takes more than just a goalie to make a championship. But teams need consistency between the pipes as well. If his stats keep tracking upwards, there’s no reason to think Andersen can’t be the one to deliver the Stanley Cup to Toronto for the first time in…wait for it…51 years.
What are your thoughts? Make your feelings known below!