More Than Just an All-Star Snub
(Photo courtesy of sportsnet.ca)
When you think of the Toronto Maple Leafs, immediately your mind is drawn towards the likes of former first overall pick Auston Matthews, puck wizard Mitchell Marner, newly acquired superstar John Tavares, or their breakout defenceman, Morgan Rielly.
All four are top tier players in all of their respective positions, have been in the Hart Trophy conversation at some point this season, and have earned the right to be the poster boys for the Leafs. However, there is one name that does not get enough credit for what he means to his team and deserves to have his name on the All-Star snub list as well as Hart Trophy debates.
Frederik Andersen for the past 3 years, has consistently been the Maple Leafs best and most important player, but because of the position he plays and the list of stars that play in front of him day in and day out, they tend to take some of the spotlight away from him.
Don’t let the star power in front of him take away his part in the Leafs' success, though. When Andersen was acquired from the Anaheim Ducks in the summer of 2016, Lou Lamoriello (the GM who pulled the trigger on the trade) said right away that they felt Andersen was the answer for the Leafs' decades of goaltending woes, and immediately signed him to a 5-year extension. Safe to say that was a decision every Leafs fan is thankful for, 3 years into the Andersen era.
For all the success that the Maple Leafs have had since the rebuild ended, a lot of that success came at the hands of Andersen who has been top 10 in SV% in the league since the 2016 season and has averaged a 2.74 GAA in the last two seasons for the Maple Leafs. Those stats say a lot considering the quality of defence the Leafs have had since Andersen’s tenure with the Leafs began.
Through the 2016-2018 season, the Maple Leafs have allowed the third most shots on goal, and currently sit 15th in the league in shots against. They average 32.38 SA per game this year and currently own a record of 20-9-1 when Andersen plays, and 7-4-1 when he is not. If you do the math, this shows that the Maple Leafs have a winning percentage of 66% with Andersen and 58% without him.
Even with all the skill that the Leafs possess up front, without the consistent play of Andersen, the Leafs are projected to be slightly better than a .500 team.
With these stats in mind, its not outrageous to say that he is the Leafs' MVP this season, and therefore should be considered for the Hart Trophy, considering the Leafs are amongst the top teams in the NHL. Unfortunately for Andersen, the league has a bias against their goaltenders winning the Hart, which has shown time and time again that they will look past the elite goalies of the NHL and show favour towards the high-scoring forward when awarding the MVP at the end of the season (only 2 have won it in the last 20 years: Carey Price in 2015 and Jose Theodore in 2002).
If we compare Andersen’s current stats (2.5 GAA - .923 SV% - 20W) and where he’ll be projected to be at the end of the season (2.2 GAA – .930 SV% - 45W), his stats will closely resemble that of Carey Price during his Hart-winning season (1.96 GAA - .933 SV% - 44W), and should be kept in mind when the debate begins on who is worthy of the Hart trophy.
Andersen is projected to finish amongst the top three in goaltending stats this season and is arguably the most valuable goaltender to his team throughout the league. He currently owns the 2nd most wins in the league, behind Marc-Andre Fleury, is 8th in shots against while maintaining the 5th best GAA amongst starting goaltenders, while having one of the worst top 6 defensive corps in front of him compared to the other elite goaltenders.
From a first glance, he may not have the most eye-catching stat line compared to other goalies in the league, but when all factors of the game are taken into account (such as the workload, quality of shots he faces on a game-by-game basis, as well as the quality of defence helping him along the way), Andersen has definitely solidified himself as one of the league's top goaltenders and has made his case as league MVP. Just based on the definition of an MVP (most valuable player) Andersen’s resume with the Leafs this season, as well as his value to his team, should be more than enough reason to place him in the MVP conversation amongst those who have a say in the matter.