Fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs are ecstatic with the way goaltender Joseph Woll has begun the 2023-2024 campaign. Woll has picked up right where he ended last season with a combination of strong positioning, acrobatic saves and a calm demeanor in the crease.
After the Toronto Maple Leafs downed the Dallas Stars 4-1 on Thursday night, Woll’s record sits at 3-1 with a GAA of 1.33 and a ridiculous save percentage of .961 (stats from quanthockey.com).
As good as those numbers are, we have to remember that Woll has only appeared in roughly 20 NHL games.
He has yet to suffer through a rough spell or a losing streak, something that all goalies must eventually contend with. Learning to deal with that type of adversity will be a key building block in the young goaltender’s development.
That’s not to say that I’m not a believer in Woll’s talent or potential. I think he’s the real deal. But we need to pump the brakes on talk of anointing him the saviour of the franchise, or calling for the immediate trade of Ilya Samsonov.
Toronto Maple Leafs Should Not Woll the Dice With Goaltending
For the most part, NHL teams have moved away from the days of having one goalie play the vast majority of the season.
Having two tenders share the crease helps to prevent injuries and burnout, and allows the coach lineup options, depending on who has the hot hand.
The Toronto Maple Leafs need Ilya Samsonov this season, and he will hopefully find his form sooner than later. Given the ever-present possibility of injuries, they may need Martin Jones at some point as well.
Trading Samsonov (or Jones) during this season would be a horrible move. The limited returns from such a move pale in comparison to the value of having viable options in net, the more the better.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are in win-now mode. GM Brad Treliving absolutely cannot gamble by weakening the teams’ goaltending depth.
Longer term, the idea of having Joseph Woll claim the number one role on a permanent basis is an intriguing thought.
He has one more year remaining on his contract that pays him a paltry $767K annually. Samsonov’s arbitrated one year deal pays him $3.55M this season, and re-signing him (or a similar replacement) will likely cost Toronto in the range of $4M next year.
The Toronto Maple Leafs should hope to find themselves in a situation next season where Woll has continued his rise into the top echelon of NHL goalies, backed up by a cheap yet reliable veteran (Jones?).
In the meantime, let’s all enjoy watching Joseph Woll provide the Leafs with the best homegrown goaltending since the days of Felix Potvin.