Put your money where your mouth is, Garret Sparks

Garret Sparks called out his teammates for being emotionless after an embarrassing loss to Ottawa on Saturday. Now slated to start against Buffalo, can Sparks show up in this could-be statement game?

I’ve teeter-tottered on Garret Sparks being the Leafs backup. My interest was peaked in him as he quickly outgrew the talent of the ECHL with the Solar Bears. I then watched him crush it with solid consistency in the AHL with the Marlies. Now, it’s been a white knuckle ride as he’s struggled for that ECHL success and that AHL consistency.

To the Sparks haters I ask this: what do you get out of constantly berating him with offside comments about his play? What good does that do? Why does it have to be all criticism without any constructive? I understand he’s had some howlers this season, but no credit when he plays well?

Actually, in his last three appearances, Sparks has been playing well! He’s also had to relieved Andersen twice, which is something he hasn’t had to do too much in his Maple Leafs career. He came in cold and came up with saves where his team needed him.

(Relief) Tampa Game: 2 GA, 21 saves, .913 save percentage
(Relief) Chicago Game: 1 GA, 24 saves, .960 save percentage
(Start) Ottawa Game: 6 GA, 38 saves, .864 save percentage

Not bad up until that Ottawa game, right? Agreed, although in the Sens debacle Sparks was a revelation in the first period. Sparks played so well, making Andersen-esque saves time after time in an attempt to build up some momentum for his team. Instead, the Leafs continued to allow a rookie-laden Sens team pen them in and eventually break down Sparks.

Life after losing to Ottawa

After that awful team performance Sparks had this to say:

Who says the Leafs don’t need a captain? Why is Sparks getting interviewed post game? Who on this team takes the brunt of the media when the team plays poorly? Lately, it’s been a rotating door of different players forced into answering questions that they don’t really know how to answer as Sparks exemplified above.

Either way, he’s called out his teammates for playing without emotion and now needs to show up against the Sabres. Buffalo has a fast, skilled, and under-performing team that can put up goals at will. It will be a tough test for Sparks tonight who needs to back up his comments and lead from the crease.

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Should the Sen’s win over Toronto give the Leafs hope to beat Boston?

Hockey games aren’t won on paper, and the Ottawa Senators proved that on Saturday night as they completely dismantled the much better Maple Leafs. Can Toronto take solace in the loss heading into the playoffs?

Who had that score line predicted before the game? I’m sure Ottawa fans (who watched from home, lets be honest) didn’t even see that explosive game coming. It’s inexplicable but maybe there is a lesson the Leafs can take from the game.

Hockey Games Aren’t Won on Paper

Who wants it more. That will be the question that decides Toronto’s eventual playoff series with the Boston Bruins. The Leafs seem resigned to cede home ice advantage to Boston, which isn’t a great tactic to be fair, but until we get to the playoffs, we won’t have any idea how this team will fare.

On Saturday, Ottawa showed Toronto that hockey games can be won on pure desire. A young, inexperienced team beat the offensive juggernaut Maple Leafs by shocking them with goals, simply because the pressure was off and they wanted the win more.

Call it a faulty ‘big team mentality’ but the Leafs appear to have overlooked Ottawa in this game and when they slapped them in the face with an unrelenting attack, Toronto had no answers for them.

Anders Nilsson played a role in Ottawa’s win, as well. He backstopped them to the unlikely 6-2 scoreline with some tremendous saves. On the other side, it’s easy to point the finger at Garret Sparks in net for Toronto for the loss but Sparks played extremely well and again was let down by his team defense on the majority of the goals.

Hockey Isn’t Fair

Toronto can embrace this. Everyone, including a lot of Leafs fans, are counting the Leafs out of their impending playoff series with Boston before they postseason even starts. I, for one, am not one of those doubters. I don’t want to come out and say they’ll win, but I think they have as much of a chance to beat Boston as they Bruins have to beat them.

It’s essentially a pick’em. Toronto has the better and deeper offense, Boston has one of the most effective first-lines in the NHL and a better defense-core. Ironically, on paper the Leafs might have the edge on Boston, but hockey isn’t fair like that.

It’s all burned into our minds. The playoff series that slipped away years ago with the old regime, and the grinding loss last season to the Bruins as well. Boston has the mental advantage and has people thinking they’ll repeat their first-round win over Toronto.

Ottawa showed Toronto that desire and wanting it more can outweigh on-paper skill of the perception of the public. Toronto should embrace the underdog mentality like the Sen’s did and shock the hockey world. It kind of sucks that their prize will be Tampa thought…

When the times get tough, the Leafs get going; Toronto quits as bounces go Tampa’s Way

Hand up: who settled in on a warm Monday night to watch the Leafs take on divisional and league leaders Tampa Bay in what could be a measuring stick game? Okay, hand up: who watched the full 60 minutes?

An utterly sad effort from the Blue and White saw Tampa Bay assert their dominance over the Leafs last night. Toronto, a team poised and playing for the ever-important right to home ice in the playoffs couldn’t rock the boat against a well-oiled, albeit unmotivated Tampa team.

With the abysmal scoreline ending up 6-2, can we hang the goals on anyone? My answer? No not goals but a specific goal, yes. That goal was the shorthanded and fifth goal of the game. All but puck-chaser Morgan Rielly took the clearance as a chance to change, and with no one in support Tampa forced a turnover and scored on a SHORTHANDED 3 ON 1.

Every other goal against was a flukey bounce that Toronto never seems to get going their way. Cross-crease toe deflection and in, screened slot deflection and in, mask-popping rebound centered to man alone in front, off the draw deflection off Matthews and in on a well wide shot, *omit 3 on 1 shorthanded goal*, and deflection in front that found a way in.

That fifth goal against, that was the true mark of a team who gave up. Toronto had a powerplay and an opportunity to get back in the game. Instead of buckling down and looking to claw their way back into the game, the first unit sewered Rielly by taking a line change.

Somehow, a Few Players Impressed

First and foremost, Auston Matthews looked like he wanted to win this game. He was firing on all cylinders throughout the night but his linemates couldn’t keep up with him or the Tampa defense. Yes, Matthews also had the giveaway that led to the first goal, but I’m willing to look past that if you are.

The first goal of the game was another clip to his highlight reel, too, to balance things out:

Imagine having cemented linemates for your generational, franchise center? Seems crazy, doesn’t it? Well, until Babcock and Dubas want to commit to finding him a leftwinger I fear we’ll never see the sustained success of this superstar.

On defense, I thought two players actually played well. Jake Muzzin took a bonehead penalty in the first, but after Tampa failed to score on it he battened down the hatches and started firing his shot from the point with regularity.

He finished a -2 but I’m hard pressed to find him at fault for either goal against. Likewise, Rielly did well tonight for Hainsey who made a bit of a mess on the ice. Usually the pair is responsible and can shut down the elite attacking of the opposition, but only half pulled their weight tonight.

Like Muzzin, Rielly was a -2 but led the team in ice-time at 21:07.

Lastly, Garret Sparks came off the bench and looked good for Toronto. The game was seemingly in hand for Tampa at the time, especially after dismissing Andersen, but Sparks stood tall in net.

Both goals allowed are hard to fault him on. On the shorthanded 3 on 1 he could have came out to play the puck and help out Rielly, but to his defense I’m sure he didn’t think his entire time would take a lazy line change, and the puck was curling away from him positioning in the crease. The second was a tip in front that found it’s way in.

Sparks made 21 saves in his half-game and showed that with the pressure off, he can perform.

The Ugly, Lazy Truth

Nazem Kadri is certainly not in game shape after his 8-game concussion layoff. As much as I would like to trust the well decorated Mike Babcock, Kadri looked bad against Edmonton and predictably followed that up with another bad performance again against Tampa. So, why force him back onto a struggling powerplay unit in both games then? It doesn’t make sense to me.

In both games he collected an assist, which Kadri apologists will hide behind as justification for “good games,” but he brings zero intensity, is a pushover on draws, and cannot hold onto possession for the life of him.

Along with Kadri, Connor Brown has been a shell of what we all thought he would be this season and utterly stunk last night. I suppose effort and grinding to win a roster spot and contract is what the goal is, but the other end of the deal is that you, ya know, take the next step and continue to grow. Brown has failed to do that and doesn’t make my September training camp roster next season. His garbage time goal doesn’t change my opinion.

Tavares – Marner – Hyman, where did you go? The Leafs defacto top line in Matthews’ injury-ridden season yet again went MIA in a crucial game? Marner danced along the ice as he usually does, but I cannot recall hearing Tavares’ name mentioned once in the broadcast. Toronto needs better from this (currently) underperforming line.

Upon Further Review…

Toronto was missing two of their top four defensemen, and Kasperi Kapanen was a late-game scratch hurting the top-9 forward group. The excuses are there, but I’m not convinced the team would have fared much differently had these players been in the lineup.

The game was won on lucky bounces that found the back of the Leafs’ net and not the Lightning’s. Toronto didn’t press enough offensively and lacked the edge to force turnovers when Tampa held possession, and it showed in the final scoreline.

That being said, this game is a hell of a lot more respectable if the team didn’t quit on the fifth goal against just because things weren’t bouncing their way in this one. That is the unacceptable part. If this can be a learning experience, so be it, but it cannot happen again.

Garret Sparks’ deal is a short-term solution to the Marleau contract problem

Kyle Dubas and Brandon Pridham are at it again with the extension of Garret Sparks. The Leafs so-so backup goalie has been inked for another year on a cap friendly deal to levy the hit of Patrick Marleau

Boiled down to as simple of a reason as I could find, the Maple Leafs are leveraging a low-risk position, the backup goalie, to accommodate Patrick Marleau’s $6 million contract for it’s final year in 2019/2020.

Rather than dip into free agency for a low-value position like a maximum 20-game backup goalie, Dubas is riding out Sparks. Sparks is a completely adequate backup for Frederick Andersen and at $750k is a bargain.

The gamble is that Andersen won’t get injured. If that should happen, Toronto will be forced into a Sparks/Kaskisuo tandem that just about no one would be confident in.

The benefit of Sparks over a free agent is that he is homegrown. He knows the coaches, he knows the systems, he knows the building, he knows the team. He’s another stable player who helps solidify a team that will likely see quite a bit of turnover before the start of next season.

As well, Sparks signing this extension now allows for yet another piece of the puzzle to fall into place for Dubas before he tries to resign Mitch Marner, Andreas Johnsson, and Kasperi Kapanen.

The upside of a one year deal is that band-aid style resolution it gives the team; a low risk, apply as you need it smart bit of business. Should Joseph Woll and Ian Scott make the jump to the AHL or ECHL for next season then the contingency plan is essentially in effect, and Sparks’ one-year deals stop.

It’s shrewd business from Dubas and Pridham who are trying to shoehorn the top end talent into this deep, young team. Even Sparks’ harshest critics surely wouldn’t have a problem with this deal if it helped sign one of Marner, Johnsson, or Kapanen, right?

Garret Sparks, it’s Not Your Fault; Leafs Lose Big in Defensive Catastrophy

The Maple Leafs were (maybe predictably) slaughtered at Nassau Coliseum after Islanders fans embarrass themselves about John Tavares’s return. Nothing is fair and just, and the hockey Gods don’t exist. Oh, and Sparks wasn’t to blame.

Recap

Islanders 6 Maple Leafs 1. Pretty telling of the performance by the Buds and also that there is no justice in the hockey world. Islanders fans kept true to their idiotic word, chanting: “we don’t need you”, and “asshole” among other creative jibes while throwing jerseys and rubber snakes on the ice.

Just as a reminder, Tavares left in free agency after playing nine seasons for the New York Islanders. What a dick, right?

Anyways, it wasn’t terrible from the start as Zach Hyman got the scoring started. Hainsey’s point shot was deflected by Marner to Hyman who was able to bounce it in over Robin Lehner for the opener. Other than a disallowed second from Hyman, the Leafs offense ended there.

They still forced Lehner to make 34 saves in the game, but the intensity of the fans was matched by a tenacious Islanders team who were motivated to repay the Long Island faithful with a marquee performance. And they did.

Diving in on a shaky Garret Sparks

What would follow Hyman’s opener was six unanswered goals. Many are pointing the finger at backup goalie Garret Sparks but is that fair? Here’s my assessment of each goal and who was to blame for it:

1st goal: Anthony Beauvillier – 3 on 1 break, Sparks hung out to dry by Muzzin who decided to make a hit instead of keeping the puck in or, ya know, playing defense.
2nd goal: Anders Lee – Rielly gambles on center ice hit that he doesn’t land, Johnsson and Hainsey don’t communicate, leaving Lee opened in front for a half-empty net. Sparks not to blame either.
3rd goal: Casey Cizikas – Bad miss on a simple pass to Muzzin, soft on the stick by Ennis, but you need your goalie to make the simple stick down save there. Not entirely his fault, but it’s a savable shot.
4th goal: Valtteri Filppula – It’s a save that Andersen usually makes, but Marincin and Holl make an absolute mess out of this. Holl rushes to cover the Filppula in front, Marincin also does, Ladd is able to rush the net and shoot, both players lose Filppula and he ends up scoring. Sparks rebound control wasn’t great here but had zero help in front.
5th goal: Nick Leddy – Weird tip in front. No one really to blame on this one, this shot misses the net 9/10.
6th goal: Brock Nelson – Sparks easily abandons the top of the net on a post play which allows Nelson to score it. Again, Andersen makes this save but Marincin makes an idiotic pinch, then just chooses not to cover his man and goes back post where Rielly already is.

Upon further review…

From my initial watching, I was glaringly mad at Sparks. It was another start, another shaky performance, and I was ready to point the finger. Looking back on it, however, this game plays out very differently if Jake Muzzin plays better and Martin Marincin is nowhere near the team.

It’s a shame that Babcock didn’t deviate from his plan of playing Andersen the first game in every back-to-back for this one game. That being said, the players on the ice let Tavares down, as well as their backup goalie.

The Sparks criticism is certainly warranted, but only for maybe 3 of the 6 goals against. He wasn’t outstanding as we all really expected, but take your own look back on the goals, Sparks gets hung out to dry – a lot.

Overall…

It’s a shame for Tavares, but this game clearly meant more to the opposition than it did to his Leafs. Toronto isn’t playing playoff games in February, but the Islanders are. This was their Stanley Cup. Congratulations, I guess.

It’s two points a month before the playoffs start, so it’s important, but there isn’t much you can draw from this game other than it being a one-off. The Leafs were outplayed but judging by recent form and results, this game isn’t a barometer of games to come.

Leafs Forced to use Three Second-Stringers in John Tavares’ Return to Long Island

Jake Gardiner – Out, Travis Dermott – Out, Frederick Andersen – resting. Thing’s are a little lean on the back end for the Toronto Maple Leafs as they visit Tavares’ old home in Long Island.

New Third Pair

Ahead of the second game in the back-to-back the Leafs are shuffling their defensive lines a little more and mixing in players as much as they can it would seem. Martin Marincin has been called up to pair with Justin Holl as the bottom two for the Leafs defense.

It’s an interesting move for Mike Babcock, to not pair each new player off with a veteran, but rather pair them together. I understand, however, the desire to keep your greenest defenders on a pair that you can minute-manage for the entirety of the game.

The Gardiner injury saw Igor Ozhiganov return to the lineup after a months absence and he played well. Ozhiganov finished with an empty stat line and 15:08 if ice time. While underwhelming, it’s a positive; Igor showed he can seamlessly return to the team and put in a solid effort.

Justin Holl

Ozhiganov did well, but there is no need to rush him into what looks to be a high intensity back-to-back. Justin Holl, the Leafs OTHER extra defenseman will get the right-side duties tonight on the bottom pairing.

Holl impressed last season after getting called up and scoring in back-to-back games from the blue line. He impressed in those two games with the two goals and, more importantly, his +5 rating in that stretch.

There is a possible problem with injecting Holl into the lineup tonight. That issue is rust. Holl has played in just 2 NHL games this season and due to having waivers attached to him, has had no AHL games to keep him in game shape.

I would have liked to have seen Holl in the first game against Edmonton in Gardiner’s absence but that’s only due to the hindsight gained after the Dermott injury. Holl will have a tired team in front of him but no doubt they’ll be motivated for JT.

Martin Marincin

I’m seriously impressed that Martin Marincin is still a Maple Leaf right now. He played a big part in the Leafs’ playoff defensive woes last season and offers little to nothing from the back. This begs the question: why is Marincin getting the call up?

Let’s be honest here, Marincin is in because Calle Rosen is injured.

The Leafs did have Marincin on the roster earlier this season. Once Ennis returned from injury, however, there was no roster space available for him and he was waived. Despite my crossed fingers, Marincin (and his gaudy $700,000 contract) wasn’t claimed by anyone and he’s been in the AHL since.

In his 10 games with the Leafs this season, Marincin has chipped in 2 assists with a -1 rating. In his 8 AHL games, he has 1 goal and 3 assists for a 0+/-.

Scheduled Sparks gets the Start

As is tradition this season, Garret Sparks gets the start for the Leafs second game in the back-to-back. It’s good for Sparks to get into a game that will have a playoff-like intensity, providing him meaningful NHL hockey experience while still in the regular season.

There is little to no pressure on Sparks, whose job is basically to take whatever the opposition throws at him. He’s tasked with playing and knowing there is little to no chance of Frederick Andersen coming off the bench to relieve him.

Sparks hasn’t looked the most steady in net this season, but his stats show he’s doing a fine job as a backup. Throughout his 13 games played this season, Sparks is 7-3 with a .908% save percentage and GAA of 2.86.

He’s improved on his numbers in 15/16 when he first came up which is terrific. The next step in Sparks’ development is to learn how to stay more composed in net, which he can absorb from Andersen’s style of play.

It’ll be a tough game, regardless of Toronto’s bottom pairing and backup goaltender getting the start. Hopefully, the added pressure on the Leafs to come together for Tavares can inspire a solid performance.

For the first time in years the Maple Leafs have goalie depth

Organizational depth became a focal point for Brendan Shanahan took over the Maple Leafs and implemented his Shana-plan. The hiring of Kyle Dubas supported this sentiment as he was then appointed to take charge of the Marlies as GM and stabilize the AHL team’s structure. For both Shanahan and Dubas the stockpiling of top prospects and development of draft picks has seen a rise in high caliber players within the Maple Leafs farm system. The area of goaltending has seemingly fallen to the wayside in previous regimes but it has been restocked with some impressive recruits, all pressing for the eventual starting job with the big league club. Here is a breakdown of the depth of the Toronto Maple Leafs goaltenders.

Frederik Andersen:

The notoriously slow starter turned Vezina candidate, Frederik Andersen has been an elite starting goaltender in his tenure with the Maple Leafs. He was acquired before the start of the 2016/17 season in a trade with Anaheim for a late first round pick. The deal was executed by Lou Lamoriello and was met with some skepticism as Andersen had never played a full season as a starter. Two years on the deal looks like a steal for the Maple Leafs as Andersen has put up back to back seasons with .918 save percentages, and a 2.81 goals against average.

Andersen also faced more shots than any other goaltender last season, with 2029 shots against and racked up five shutouts. He was playing lights out for the majority of the season and helped stabilize a young NHL team that continued to grow on the ice. At only 28 years old, and with three years left on his deal Andersen will likely stave off the mounting competition for the starting job for the remainder of his Leaf’s contract. He’s elite, he’s calm in the net, compact in his positioning, and gives the Leafs stability on the back end. A top quality starting goalie for the Leafs in their early years as a contending team.

Curtis McElhinney:

The veteran back up to Frederik Andersen, Curtis McElhinney has performed admirably in his time with the Maple Leafs. He re-upped on a two year contract for $850,000 per year before the 2017 season, so he will be playing out the last year on the big league team before likely moving on or retiring. At 35 years old McElhinney has been a solid career backup goalie and has cemented that in his time with Toronto.

He has helped in securing back to back playoff seasons, and even has his name in the Maple Leafs record books as the holder of best single season save percentage (minimum 500 shots) at .925%. His most impressive moment as a Maple Leafs came in the second last game of the regular season against Pittsburgh. A win would see the Leafs make the playoffs and with 48 seconds left Sidney Crosby was robbed blind on a cross crease pass that McElhinney tracked and beautifully stopped with his left pad.

He’s a bit unorthodox style-wise, but he has been serviceable as a Maple Leaf and has provided stability in a position that in underrated by many for importance to a team.

Garret Sparks:

One of the Maple Leafs most important prospects is goaltender Garret Sparks. He made a 17 game appearance in the 2015/16 season for the Maple Leafs where he became the first ever Maple Leafs goalie to debut with a shutout. However, his play dipped along with his teams and he was sent back to the minors. Last season with the Marlies was one for the record books. Sparks had a 1.79 GAA and a .936 save% earning him the Baz Bastion award for most outstanding AHL goalie, as well as the Hap Holmes award he shared with goalie battery-mate for lowest goals allowed per game with a 2.26 average on the season. Oh yeah, and he won the Calder Cup.

Sparks currently has one more season at a the league minimum cap hit before he hits RFA status. He is extremely important to the Leafs because goaltending is at a premium in the league and while he could have an effect on the actual roster he could be more important as a trade piece. The Leafs are currently set on their starter while Sparks is pushing for NHL minutes after performing extremely well in the minors. Carolina, or Phili… need a goalie?

Calvin Pickard:

Pickard was acquired last season via trade between the Leafs and Vegas that saw prospect Tobias Lindberg and a 2018 sixth-round pick. Pickard has 86 NHL games under his belt, but was sent directly to the minors to support Sparks and the Marlies on their quest for the the Calder Cup. He played in 33 games for the Marlies last season and combined with Sparks for an award winning season. He has the skills and experience to make him a solid NHL backup or AHL starter, and should be looking for that opportunity.

For the Leafs, Pickard is in the same boat as Sparks. Surely after this upcoming season one of the two players should be moved into the backup role behind Andersen. That leaves the other as a likely trade candidate with the younger goalies in the system maturing to ascending to the AHL. Whether it is Sparks or Pickard that makes the leap to the Maple Leafs for the 2019/20 season, another year of dominant AHL play for the two goalies should see their skills develop further and their trade value spike, too.

Kasimir Kaskisuo:

Kasimir Kaskisuo is the first goalie that should be looked at as a real, true prospect in the Leafs organization. At 24 years old the Finnish born goalie went un-drafted and played out his development in the NCHC with the University of Minnesota-Duluth for two season. Kaskisuo put up great numbers in his two seasons, and was signed by the leafs following his college career. He has struggled in the ECHL with the Orlando Solar Bears, posting a 3.45 GAA in 32 games during the 2016/17 season.

The following season the Leafs loaned out Kaskisuo to the Chicago Wolves in the AHL. With a move more reminiscent of a soccer transaction than a hockey one, the Leafs showed their interest in their prospect, finding game time for their player in an unorthodox way. He’s young, he shows promise, he’s excelled at the college level; all were signs that the Leafs need to fit him into their system and he replayed their investment with Chicago. Kaskisuo played 28 games for the Wolves with a 2.38 GAA and .914 save% last season.

He is a smothering goalie with good size and uses his strong edge work to make him surprisingly mobile in the crease. He can quickly seal off the bottom of the net and glide from post to post with ease. Look for him to transition back to the Marlies should one of Sparks or Pickard move on from the team or graduate to the NHL.

Joseph Woll:

At just 20 years old former Leafs third round pick in the 2016 draft has been having great success at Boston College in the NCAA H-East League. Woll, a product of the US National Team development program, showed that the Leafs were drafting for need rather than taking the best available player. Bibeau a sixth round pick, and Sparks a seventh round pick, were the last two goalies selected by the Leafs, but both were late round picks. Woll’s selection was an investment in a highly touted young player who will hopefully ascend through the Leaf’s system and be a homegrown talent the Leafs can build upon.

According to DobberProspects.com Woll has good size (6’3″, 197lbs) and high potential for reaching the NHL. He is expected to be selected to the USA’s World Junior team and is the probable starter for that tournament. At 20 years old he should continue to play at Boston College for the next 1-2 years with the log jam in the AHL at the goalie position for the Marlies.

His playing style is similar to Andersen; compact, controlled, and down early. He is very quick with his edges allowing him to recover from blocked shots, deflections, or first saves to square up to secondary chances. He looks extremely promising, and even though he is years away from featuring for the Leafs, keep the name Woll in your memory.

Ian Scott:

Like Woll, Ian Scott was a early/mid draft pick (fourth round in 2017) and is a solid prospect to add to the organizational goalie depth chart. Physically, Scott has a presence it net, registering at 6’3″ but needs to cultivate some mass as he is only 175lbs. He uses his light frame to be an fast, athletic goalie. He has a poor team in front of him in the WHL in the Prince Albert Raiders, which has inflated Scott’s numbers, but the Leaf’s drafted him on his technical skills and will look to implement him into the AHL system in the coming years, according to Darren Pang of the NHL Network.

The future is bring in Leaf land when looking at the goaltenders of the future. The best part? The current team isn’t being forced into playing any of these players too early in their development to help them contend at the time being. The Marlies are stocked with two elite AHL goalies, Kaskisuo is promising and looks ready to replace either Sparks or Pickard when they depart, and the Leaf’s goalie draft picks from 2016 and 2017 are highly touted and developing well.

For what feels like the first time in years the Maple Leafs are filling the cupboards with solid prospects, letting them marinade at the appropriate levels, and not forcing any players into premature situations. We all have heard that goalies take longer to develop than any other position, but when you have players staggered at different ages and levels of play it makes the transition from one player to the next more natural and less stressful for the fan base.

Leaf’s fans can smile and exhale, the future of their crease appears to be in solid hands.