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The Leafs' Goalie Crisis is Self-Inflicted

If the Maple Leafs taught at Hogwarts, their backups would teach Defence Against the Dark Arts. The Leafs have their own Harry Potter-style debacle in net to deal with, staring down the barrel of yet another catastrophe just 11 games into the year.
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If the Maple Leafs taught at Hogwarts, their backups would teach Defence Against the Dark Arts. 

That, for all non-Harry Potter buffs out there, is bad. Like, "get replaced every year because you either die or resign" bad.

The Leafs have their own Harry Potter-style debacle in net to deal with, staring down the barrel of yet another catastrophe just 11 games into the year. 

Jack Campbell, of course, has been stellar, compiling a 25-7-4 record since arriving in Toronto that comes nicely accented by the .932 save percentage he's put up this year through eight games. 

Everything behind him, though, is chaos. 

Petr Mrazek, the supposed 1B to Campbell's 1A, has spent a grand total of 100 minutes on NHL ice this season - the first, mind you, of a three-year, $11.4 million contract he signed with the Leafs over the summer. 

That is obviously not what management had in mind when making the Czech native the highest-paid puck stopper on the team. But it's the reality they've been forced to deal with, with Mrazek landing back on the IR for the next four weeks thanks to the same groin injury that caused him to miss 16 days in mid-October. 

Knowing that Mrazek was likely out long-term, the Leafs promoted goalie prospect Joseph Woll to the active roster ahead of their tilt with the Boston Bruins on Saturday night. 

Woll hasn't exactly had a great relationship with the injury bug himself either, having played just 18 total games over the past two seasons, including a mere three this year thanks to an injury he suffered in a preseason practice on September 25th. 

The other young Leafs netminder who would've normally picked up the slack in Woll's absence is Ian Scott, who was indeed on the ice Saturday...taking shots from the training staff an hour before morning skate was set to begin as he works his way back from an injury of his own. 

Whoever the Leafs wronged to the point that they placed a curse on their backup goalies, they need to make amends. NOW. 

The pill of Mrazek's absence would be a heck of a lot easier to swallow if the team's third goalie, Michael Hutchinson, presented a viable stop-gap option at the NHL level. Alas, that is not the case, with Hutchinson currently holding a .857 save percentage in two appearances this season along with a multi-year track record of subpar big-league results that, in normal circumstances, would keep him in the AHL forever. 

The Leafs could, in theory, throw Hutchinson back in there and simply pray for one of the five-or-so-game runs of respectability he's been known to string together on occasion since coming to Toronto. But doing so would be placing your hopes in a miracle. And that's not a winning strategy.

Then again, with a back-to-back on November 20th/21st fast approaching, the Leafs might be forced to. 

So, where does the team go from here? Excluding Hutchinson, that leaves Sheldon Keefe & co. with some seriously limited options. 

The next logical place to turn is throwing Woll to the fire, which could be an interesting gamble, albeit with an extreme amount of risk. 

The 23-year-old has his merits, however. Woll is arguably the organization's top goalie prospect, not to mention a Hobey Baker Award nominee and a World Junior Gold Medalist. He's also never posted a save percentage above .900 in three years of professional hockey, though, and has only faced NHL shooters in training camp or practice. 

Riding Woll, like Hutchinson, would be the Leafs putting all their chips on the unknown. 

Current Marlies starter Erik Kallgren, who isn't even signed to an NHL contract, is an uninspiring option, too. 

Kallgren is the Leafs' defacto fifth goaltender at the moment. And while the 25-year-old has produced some decent numbers throughout his career in both Sweden and across six AHL games to this point -- which at least gives him a better track record than Woll at the pro level -- dumping him into an NHL crease with less than 10 North American starts under his belt would be insane. 

Case in point: This is a disaster. 

Campbell being both healthy and out-of-his-mind incredible this season shields the Leafs from the full brunt of consequences for their goalie conundrum. But Campbell is an injury risk himself, having never played more than 33 games in a season and missing stretches of 2021 with a groin ailment, too. 

One tweak, and Hutchinson is Option A. 

So, naturally, they just trade for goalie help, right? Well, that's definitely on the table. But turning to the trade market would once again serve as a case of the Leafs surrendering assets midseason in exchange for an insurance option, a la David Rittich or, even, Hutchinson himself. 

How did those work out? And how many years can you back yourself into a corner that forces you to spend a mid-round pick for a few starts of maybe .900 goaltending? 

What the Leafs have here is a self-inflicted debacle. 

It's not like the team signed Mrazek without even taking a glance at his playing history. Management knew just how susceptible he's been to injuries throughout his entire career and still gave him a three-year deal. Management knew the risk of trusting Hutchinson with any responsibility whatsoever after all this time and still brought him back for a fourth tour. And they knew their prospects weren't ready and still stacked the depth chart in a way that could force one of them into action with some rough injury luck. 

This is all the product of their own doing. Which leaves one fact to remain: Jack Campbell has the most important groin in Toronto. 

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