Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Ilya Samsonov is having a terrible season and needs to traded or sent to the AHL immediately.
For the first few games, I wanted to blame the Toronto Maple Leafs defense for Samsonov's struggles, but after 14 games, it's not their fault. Sure, they definitely need to upgrade their defensive core, but Samsonov looks lost in net.
I have no idea what has happened to him because last year, Samsonov's $1.8M contract looked like one of the biggest steals in hockey. However, after getting a pay-raise to $3.55M, his game has fallen apart. Fortunately Toronto has Joseph Woll eventually coming back from injury, and a veteran in Martin Jones, but Samsonov was supposed to be their steadiest option this season.
Through 14 games, Samsonov has a 5-2-5 record, 3.79 GAA and .871 SV%. That save percentage ranks him last and goals-against average ranks him second last among eligible goaltenders. Essentially, Samsonov is the worst goalie in the league right now.
Toronto isn't the only Stanley Cup contending team who's ran into goalie trouble this year. The Carolina Hurricanes have gone through the exact same thing with Antti Raanta this year, who's stats resemble Samsonov's: 0.854 SV% and 3.61 GAA
Toronto Maple Leafs: Ilya Samsonov Needs To Be Sent to Marlies
Raanta was supposed to be the 1A/1B goalie with Pyotr Kochetkov, but they couldn't afford to keep him on the roster anymore. Instead, they put him on waivers, with the purpose of sending him to the Chicago Wolves in the AHL.
I know that the Leafs are desperate right now since Woll's timeline is unknown due to his injury, however Toronto can't keep putting Samsonov on the ice. In his last three starts, he's allowed 15 goals and was pulled 28 minutes into his last start.
It's not like he's just getting let out to dry by the defense, but instead is allowing terrible goals that should be stopped by an NHL goaltender.
He may get claimed on waivers, but based on his contract, he most likely won't, so Samsonov needs to a restart. We've seen this in the past with a Leafs starting goalie when Jonathan Bernier was sent to the Marlies and the same thing needs to happen to Samsonov.
When Bernier was sent down, it was the best thing that could have happened to him. He only spent four games with the Marlies, but in those four starts, he had three shutouts and got his confidence back. He turned his NHL season around and then ultimately got his career back in check, playing another six years in the league.
As shown by the Bernier example, if Samsonov gets sent down to the Marlies, it doesn't mean his career is over. In fact, it could be the best thing that's ever happened to him as he needs that time on the bus to think about his play and get focused. The Leafs have compiled enough points thus far that they can afford to send Samsonov down for a two-week stint in the AHL and it won't affect their playoff standings.
In fact, if they don't send him down, they'll probably have a harder time winning with him in-net, with the big club.
I know it's a big move, but the Toronto Maple Leafs seriously need to consider sending Samsonov to the AHL because his game has hit rock-bottom.