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The Toronto Maple Leafs have had an interesting past couple of weeks. The team has gone 7-2-1 in their last ten games, but have given up leads in FOUR of their SIX recent games. The problem hasn’t been their lack of scoring. They’re averaging almost five goals per game. The problem hasn’t been their goaltending. Frederik Andersen has a .918 save percentage despite a forgettable 12-game start to the season! The problem has been the team taking the foot off the gas pedal after a period and a half.
Beneath their recent success has been a goaltending carousel. Jhonas Enroth was waived and sent to the Toronto Marlies. The Marlies had signed Karri Ramo to an Amateur Tryout, posting an unenticing 3.80 goals against average and an .880 save percentage in just three games. Antoine Bibeau posted a friendly .927 save percentage with a 1.99 goals against average in just two games with the Toronto Maple Leafs. And on January 10, the Leafs claimed goaltender Curtis McElhinney off of waivers from the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Curtis McElhinney is an average backup. The 33 year-old has played for a total of five teams in his NHL career, and will now join his sixth in the Toronto Maple Leafs. McElhinney played a high number of games for a backup in both the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons, where he posted a save percentage of .909 or more. However, when Bobrovsky went down to injury last season, McElhinney was not the adequate substitution, holding an .890 save percentage and a 3.30 goals against average in eighteen games. His sub-par performance prompted the call-up of Joonas Korpisalo who posted a .920 save percentage in 31 games. 2015-16 was not a kind year to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Somehow they’re doing a lot better with just about the same roster this season, and McElhinney has posted a .924 save percentage in just seven games. The Jackets have Werenski and Jones on the back end this year. It pays to have a good top defensive pairing.
At 6’3, McElhinney looks like the Leafs backup for the rest of the 2016-17 season. Babcock likes his tall goaltenders. It’s disappointing to see a competent NHL backup in 5’10 Jhonas Enroth play only three games with the Toronto Marlies after playing just six with the Leafs. If only Babcock believed in Enroth just as he did with Frederik Andersen. McElhinney has an $800 000 cap hit which will leave him as an unrestricted free agent at the conclusion of this season. It seems as though the Leafs are planning on having Antoine Bibeau or Garret Sparks as the backup to Frederik Andersen in 2017-18, providing that the two young goalies have a consistent second half of the Marlies’ season.
Not only do the Leafs have a huge flux of goaltenders in the system, the team has Frankie Corrado playing with the Toronto Marlies. The 23 year-old right-shot defenceman has played just ONE GAME with the Leafs, and four with the Marlies. It seems as though he will get his call with the big club after his conditioning stint sooner rather than later. Unless he stays in his home of the press box.
With four goalies in the carousel and Curtis McElhinney likely being the now-established backup to Frederik Andersen, something has to give.
The Hunlak (Hunwick-Polak) defensive pairing hasn’t been very good, except at blocking shots according to head coach Mike Babcock. It might be time for change in the Leafs’ bottom pairing.
McElhinney is the guy, and Enroth is not. Roman Polak is on a one-year deal. He’ll probably get traded to a contender, which leaves room for Frank Corrado.
The Toronto Maple Leafs could package Roman Polak and Jhonas Enroth in a trade or ship them individually. Heck, even Brooks Laich, Colin Greening and Milan Michalek could be on their way out (probably not)! The Leafs are building in the development of their young players. Players are fighting for ice-time IN THE AHL because of the number of players backlogged by former NHL players and the Leafs’ current roster.
Toronto might look to trim their roster with cuts of Jhonas Enroth, Roman Polak, and maybe the NHL veterans who have played a majority or the entire AHL season with the Toronto Marlies. With the acquisition of Curtis McElhinney from waivers, it seems obvious that a trade could be imminent.
Could it finally be time for Frank Corrado to regularly play for the Leafs?
Update: The Leafs traded Jhonas Enroth to the Anaheim Ducks for a 2018 7th round pick.