After three and a half great years from Frederik Andersen in Toronto, his time seems to be at a very unfitting and horrible end. He once was loved by most. He now appears to be the most hated man in the city. The reason for this change is his lack of form and abysmal play in the net this season. A season where finally the Leaf was meant to take the next step and go far in the playoff. However, Andersen has been subpar, and now it’s up to Jack Campbell to keep the net for the remaining part of the season.
Frederik Andersen: The Danish Hero
Before we move into the ending part of Andersen’s career in the blue and white, let us focus on his glory days. When Andersen joined Toronto, it was right after the horrible last-place season for Toronto. They were in the middle of a major rebuild that was going well with young prospects like Austin Matthews, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander coming into the lineup. It was a promising roster but a group of kids that lacked NHL experience. On the backend, Morgan Rielly was the hopeful player, but the rest was far from ideal.
The team came into the 2016-2017 season fans expected nothing but to be interesting to watch for their youngsters. And while they were overshadowing most things, their MVP of the season was their danish netminder. Playing 66 games in his first season, often facing 30+ shots with most being high danger chances, Andersen kept Toronto in multiple games where they were outshot and outplayed. At the end of the season, the Leafs had made the playoff in an entire season for the first time in eleven years, and Andersen had posted a .918 save percentage.
The Leafs fell to Washington in six games, but it sparked a new chapter for the Maple Leafs. They were now a team to watch out for with stars like Matthews and Marner offensively, and Frederik Andersen was shutting down teams. In his second season, he repeated his first nearly tape for tape. Once again, he played 66 games and a .918. He was a wall and loved by almost all. His only downside was his disastrous record in game sevens.
In his third year, it was more of the same. Yet again, he was an Iron Man who played 60 games for Toronto and thrived. It was yet again Boston in the playoff, but where the season before had crumbled in exactly that series, he was great for Toronto. Making huge saves and absolutely stole the Leafs a few games. This gave the leaf a 3-2 series lead, and in-game six Andersen was spectacular, but the Leafs were unable to create chances against Tuukka Rask. This meant yet another game seven and yet another loss for Andersen and the leaf. Andersen had been great, but the Leafs couldn’t get by their old demons.
The Villain Of Toronto
In his fourth year, things started as well as in his first three seasons. Andersen was playing great, and the first two and a half months, he was talked about like a Vezina candidate. This also got him a spot in the All-star game for the first year of his career. However, a significant issue was emerging. The Leafs had lacked a backup for years, which forced Andersen to be an iron man, who was probably the busiest goalie in the league since joining Toronto. Especially under Mike Babcock, where it was clear that Andersen was his guy, and the backup was never trusted to help carry the workload. Neither Curtis McElhinney, Garret Sparks, or Michael Hutchinson was entrusted more than the second half of a back-to-back.
Eventually, the inevitable happened. Frederik Andersen got an injury to his hamstring and groin. However, because of the lack of a secondary goalie, he never recovered properly. He was battling and playing through injuries until Covid-19 shut down the 2019-20 season. His game was far from what people used to with Andersen, and it was clear that he was far from 100%. Even when the season returned, Andersen wasn’t at his best but was far from bad in the series against Columbus.
This season, however, has been a different story. Something is clearly wrong with Andersen, and he is one of the reasons for the Toronto Maple Leaf’s latest struggles. He hasn’t made the saves he has to make. His game seems far away from his normally calm and confident style, where he is using his body well on shots from the point and great push to recover on high danger chances. His agility has taken a major hit this season, and injuries from the heavy workload might cause that under Babcock’s tenure.
I don’t know if Babcock can be blamed fully for Andersen’s decline, but one thing stands true. Andersen is not the same goalie as he was before his injuries and its caused a major decline that turned people against Andersen, who is the scapegoat. The best way to describe Andersen’s career might be by using a quote from Batman and the dark knight. “You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”. Andersen was the hero that brought the Leaf back into the playoff but is now he is the villain preventing them from a real playoff push.
Can He Recover?
As of now, the leaf net seems to be belonging to Campbell. Coming off two shutouts in a row and overall, much better play than Andersen, it would be ludicrous to think that Campbell is not going to be the starter for Sheldon Keefe. Something that near dooms Andersen’s chances of resigning for the Leaf. A sad ending to his story in Toronto, where he will be the backup. His only real chance for redemption is if Campbell gets hurt near the playoff and his form peaks at the perfect time.
There is a chance that the role as a backup could actually be a blessing in disguise for Dane since he might get a chance to recover from his injuries. Someone is absolutely going to try and sign him in the offseason, and at the age of 31, he has plenty of years to get his NHL career back on track. The big If is if he can get his hamstring and groin fixed. He needs to be fully fit and take the time he needs, but if he can do so and his jump and agility returns, there is no reason to think he won’t be back for a different team as a solid .918 Sv% goaltender for a team once again.