Frederik Andersen has been a key piece of the Toronto Maple Leafs team for nearly five years now. With his contract coming to an end, I feel like it’s important to reflect on his time as a Leaf. I will be going through Frederik Andersen’s tenure as a Toronto Maple Leaf, year by year.
Looking at Frederik Andersen and His Toronto Maple Leafs Career
The Trade For Frederik Andersen
On June 20th, 2016, Lou Lamoriello made a big trade, dealing away the 31st overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft and a 2017 second-round pick. These picks would end up turning into Sam Steel and Maxime Comtois, so not a cheap price. But the Leafs got their starter and instantly signed him to a five-year contract. This showed that Lou Lamoriello and the Leafs felt confident in the group they had moving forward.
Frederik Andersen got off to a bit of a rocky start in Toronto. In his first game with the Leafs he surrendered five goals in a 5-4 loss to the Ottawa Senators. This became concerning, as he didn’t look great on any of the goals scored. This, however, would just be a blip on his resume, turning into the phenomenon that would later be called “October Freddy” (or first month Freddy, with this season not starting in October). After this rough month, Andersen’s first season in Toronto proved to be one of his best.
Andersen put up a 0.9176 save percentage in his first year. This is incredibly impressive, considering he was effectively the Leafs only line of defence. He had 18.72 GSAx in that first season and helped carried a team of rookies to the playoffs. The Leafs were still young and learning how to play defence. Andersen was the goalie that not only helped them play through their defensive inefficiencies but thrived in this position.
Frederik Andersen wasn’t the goalie he usually was when the playoffs rolled around. Maybe it was the quality of team that Washington was, or maybe it was the fatigue of playing 66 regular season games catching up to him. Whatever it was, Andersen had a -1.64 GSAx through the six-game series. Despite the poor showing in the playoffs, the larger sample indicated that Andersen was the Leafs clear-cut starter.
2017-18 rolled around, and October Freddy was at it again. Posting an 0.896 through 11 games in the month of October. He would rebound and post a 0.9177 save percentage on the season in spite of this. Andersen saved 10.37 goals above expected, placing him firmly among the top half of starting goalies in the NHL, and even breaking the record for most wins in a single season by a Leaf. Andersen also played another 66 games in the regular season, with head coach Mike Babcock seemingly not trusting backup goalie Curtis McElhinney to start anything that wasn’t a back-to-back, despite his success in his limited games. This decision to not rest Frederik Andersen heading into the playoffs seems to have been a costly one.
At this point, a trend is starting to emerge. Andersen does poorly in October. Andersen plays 60+ successful games throughout the whole season. If we learned anything from his first season, Andersen would put up poor numbers in the playoffs, potentially due to such a heavy load in the regular season. And that’s exactly what happened. Andersen had yet another lacklustre playoffs, with a -4.64 GSAx, placing him firmly among the bottom half of goalies in the playoffs.
When the 2018-19 season rolled around, Leaf fans knew exactly what to expect from Andersen. Another bad October, and another 60+ game regular season where he carries the Leaf’s defence. Andersen was unreal yet again. He was able to put up a 0.9173 save percentage, bringing the Leafs to the playoffs yet again.
In this year’s playoffs, Andersen wasn’t quite as poor as the first two. He had a 0.9221 save percentage, but still a negative GSAx. Things were getting better, and this series against Boston wasn’t on Andersen.
With all this talk about trends and predictableness, the 2019-20 season was anything but. For Frederik Andersen, and the rest of the world. The year started as normal. Bad October, good bounceback November. Then things spiralled. Andersen couldn’t seem to make a save from December onward. It was a bad regular season for him. His first as a Leaf. He put up a -10.41 GSAx. Andersen was NOT good, at all.
Once the NHL returned from the season getting postponed from COVID-19, the Leafs were in the play-in. The Leafs needed Andersen to be better. Fortunately for the Leafs, he was. Unfortunately for the Leafs, Columbus had even better goaltending. The Leafs lost the play-in, not because of poor play from the team or goalie, but because of exceptional play from the opposing goaltenders.
Now this season is showing the 2019-20 season maybe wasn’t just a flukey bad season. Frederik Andersen has not been good. He’s been costing the Leafs games with the goals he’s allowed. With him on the verge of losing the starting position to Jack Campbell, Andersen’s time in Toronto might be coming to an end on an unfortunate note.
Andersen has been one of the best Leafs goalies of my lifetime. The team has waited for a goalie that was able to top the 37 win record Andrew Raycroft set. Andersen provided a defensive backbone for a roster that didn’t like playing in their own zone. And I will forever be grateful for that. However, this is the best Leafs roster I have ever witnessed. They have a competent defence group and lethal top-end scoring, but Andersen has started costing them games. It’s time for the Leafs to move forward, even if it is heartbreaking to admit.
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