Jack Campbell’s Historic Run With Maple Leafs Reaches New Heights

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 7: Jack Campbell #36 of the Toronto Maple Leafs warms up prior to playing against the Montreal Canadiens in an NHL game at Scotiabank Arena on April 7, 2021 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - APRIL 7: Jack Campbell #36 of the Toronto Maple Leafs warms up prior to playing against the Montreal Canadiens in an NHL game at Scotiabank Arena on April 7, 2021 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /

As if Jack Campbell wasn’t already having a season he won’t soon forget, the netminder’s historic run since becoming the Toronto Maple Leafs’ starter could become even more rewarding thanks to the Professional Hockey Writers Association (PHWA).

It seems that Toronto’s local chapter of the association shares the same adoration for this fan favourite as the rest of Maple Leafs fans. Since, this year, they chose Campbell as their nominee for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy.

Campbell is deserving of all the hockey-related recognition that is humanly possible. Not just for being a likable character in his post-game interviews, but as a result of his stellar showing since taking over the Leafs’ crease.

At the time of this announcement, Campbell was riding a record of 17-2-2. If that wasn’t impressive enough, let’s be sure to include his .923 save percentage and 2.11 goals against average. Both of which place in the NHL’s top-10, among goalies who have played at least 20 games.

From seeming set to become a perennial backup just a few short seasons ago, Campbell has taken control of his destiny in Toronto as he works to steer their ship in a direction not embarked upon since 1967.

Explaining the Award

Bill Masterton was a professional hockey player, who tragically passed away in January 1968 following an injury he sustained while playing for the Minnesota North Stars.

At the end of that 1967-68 season, this award was established in his honour. It recognizes perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to the sport. All being traits Masterton readily displayed throughout his career.

Every year, the PHWA is responsible for nominating one athlete per team for the trophy. From there, the list is whittled down to three finalists. The ultimate winner is crowned at that respective year’s NHL Awards and a grant, in their name, is awarded to the Bill Masterton Scholarship Fund.

Zach Hyman was Toronto’s last nominee, so Campbell is already in good company among those worthy of such recognition.

Less Than a Paved Path

It’s easy to misconstrue Campbell’s story. To many, he could come across like a newer star, now poised to brighten his shine. However, he was actually drafted in 2010 by the Dallas Stars — 11th overall, to be exact.

Rare for goalies to be selected that early, it knowingly heightens the anticipation of what’s to come when they break into the league. You’d think the drafting organization would then itch to get the rookie into play as soon as possible. Right?

Unfortunately, it would take some time before anyone would get to witness the former first-round pick’s potential. Through his first six years with the Stars’ organization, he only made it into their lineup once.

Campbell ended up being traded to the Los Angeles Kings in the 2016 offseason. While a fresh start would have seemed ideal, backing up a workhorse like Jonathan Quick wasn’t exactly an open invitation to more ice time.

Between 2016-17 to 2019-20, Campbell played in 57 games with the Kings. Not even a full season’s worth of experience, through almost four schedules of opportunity. Yet, in the limited chances available, he played solid in relief of Quick on Kings teams that were far from competitive.

Clearly, it was enough to make Kyle Dubas take notice — again. The two already knew each other from their time shared with the OHL’s Soo Greyhounds. Obviously fond memories prevailed, with Dubas constructing a great excuse for a reunion between the two.

Welcome to Toronto, Jack

Toronto acquired Campbell in a deal with Los Angeles mid-way through the 2019-20 campaign. The timing couldn’t have been any better, for either side of the transaction.

Nearly 10 years since being drafted, Campbell hadn’t even accumulated 60 games in the NHL. All the while, the Maple Leafs were desperate to rewrite the debacle that had become of their backup goalie storyline throughout 2019-20.

"You might say the second game of back-to-backs has been the Toronto Maple Leafs‘ arch nemesis this season."

Through limited action after joining the Maple Leafs, Campbell made good on illustrating his ability to be a quality secondary option. He concluded last season in Toronto going 3-2-1, accumulating a .915 save percentage, and 2.63 goals against average with his new team.

He quickly revised a negative narrative that once seemed impossible to overcome. Campbell almost immediately became a reliable backup on a team that wasn’t used to that correlation.

It would have been difficult to assume what would appear next in his script with the Maple Leafs. Luckily, for them, he was ready for it.

Struggling for Starts

Campbell was able to get into two match-ups through Toronto’s first seven of their 2020-21 schedule. He won both, stopping 48 of 52. A solid start to a year that would rely on strong goaltending, if the Maple Leafs were expecting to push further than they have in recent years.

Following his second win of the season, Campbell was abruptly listed as out for weeks due to a nagging leg injury. Not the type of news anyone wanted to hear, especially with starter Frederik Andersen having come out of the gate a little slower than would have been ideal.

To that point in the season, Andersen had earned a record of 3-2-0 with a save percentage south of .900. Certainly not starter-type numbers that supported a roster ready for a deep playoff dive.

Fortunately, Andersen picked up the pieces and went on a run of 8-1-2 with Campbell on the sidelines. His underlying numbers still weren’t brag-worthy, but he was helping the Maple Leafs get the job done. Yet, fans anxiously awaited Campbell’s return.

Rightfully so, as it turns out, with Campbell going 9-0-0 after getting back into the game. Including his first two wins of the season, he had collectively accumulated a record-setting start of 11-0-0.

Campbell returned ready, right back to his 2-0-0 form, while Andersen’s play began to suffer from that point forward. Since March 3, Andersen tallied a record of 2-5-0, stopping only 163 of 186 shots against and letting in three or more on five separate occasions.

Campbell More Than Compensates

Andersen was forced out of the lineup with a lower-body injury, following a losing effort to the Calgary Flames on March 19. He hasn’t played since.

With that said, no decent human being should ever wish harm upon any athlete who’s just trying to do their job. Regardless of whether they are struggling to perform or if you’re simply not a fan. Health comes before hockey, always. So a return for Andersen will certainly be welcomed news.

In the meantime, Campbell has done everything in his power to infuse confidence not seen between Toronto’s pipes in decades.  He has successfully elevated beyond what could have been a career riddled with a lack of opportunities, right into the conversation for who is best suited to lead the Maple Leafs on their hopeful playoff push.

Regardless of what comes by the conclusion of Toronto’s 2020-21 campaign, Campbell has made it more than clear that he’s also poised to be their number one moving forward.

Make My Dreams Come True With a New Maple Leafs Goal Song. dark. Next

No one on Toronto’s current roster is more deserving of an award that showcases perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to the game than Campbell. Don’t be surprised if he caps off his historic season by becoming the first Maple Leafs goalie to ever take home the trophy.