Did the Toronto Maple Leafs Make a January Mistake?

The Toronto Maple Leafs had an opportunity to see if Dennis Hildeby could handle NHL caliber hockey and failed to seize the opportunity this past season.
Toronto Maple Leafs v San Jose Sharks
Toronto Maple Leafs v San Jose Sharks / Ezra Shaw/GettyImages

Arguably the most stressful situation the Toronto Maple Leafs had this season was trying to maneuver around all the goaltending issues throughout the year.

Coming out of the 2022-23 season there was a ton of questions around the Toronto Maple Leafs goaltending situation. Matt Murray's health was a main focal point, Ilya Samsonov pending contract talk and whether or not Joe Woll could take the next jump in his development.

Things became even more skeptical before the season started when it was learned that Murray would miss the entirety of the upcoming year with hip surgery which left management signing Martin Jones as an insurance goalie.

While some were very critical of the signing due to the last half decade of results from the veteran goalie, however, the contract did not disturb anything the team could have done with the cap space while giving the team a "just in case".

As the season progressed on, Samsonov showed signs of why the Washington Capitals gave up on the their former first round pick. The team was collecting points with him in net despite how bad he was playing as he posted a 5-1-3 record with a 3.21 GAA and .886 Save Percentage through his first 11 appearances leading to Woll taking over as the number one goalie.

As fans got excited about their top goalie prospect looking to be taking strides towards being an upper end goalie in the league things came crashing down on the Maple Leafs in early December when Woll went down with an ankle injury. To everyone's fear Samsonov was handed the keys to the number one spot again and after a stretch of surrendering 21 goals over a four game stretch he was placed on waivers.

With Woll and Samsonov away from the team, the organization gave Jones seven consecutive starts while calling up prospect Dennis Hildeby to be the back-up but never gave the Swedish an opportunity.

Dennis Hildeby Should Have Started Games in January

This part of the season is where the Toronto Maple Leafs coaching staff really dropped the ball as they had a perfect storm of goaltending issues where they could have been nearly forced to give Hildeby a start to see how he could handle that level of hockey. Instead of seeing what they had in a 22-year old 6'7" goalie they decided to go with Jones over and over again.

To be fair to Jones he played great in the first five starts, but management knew what they had in him, while not yet being clear what they had in Hildeby. As expected Jones came back down to earth posting a 3.94 GAA and .863 save percentage in his final ten appearances.

Keefe and the coaching staff could have handed Hildeby a game or two in January to see how he reacted to the higher competition. HIldeby could have easily allowed ten goals, but he could have shown that he could compete at the NHL level.

The former fourth round pick and their potential goalie of the future had already built up a solid resume in both the SHL and AHL as he has been playing against professionals since he was 20-years old, which included serving as the back-up for Farjestads in 2021-22 when they were the SHL Champions. (stats nhl.com).


Not only did the Leafs not know if if they could go to him in the playoffs, management is not quite clear what they have going into the 2024-25 season. Not playing Hildeby in January was yet another huge blunder by this organization.