Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe made a very questionable decision by starting Martin Jones on Wednesday night against the Anaheim Ducks.
I couldn’t care less that Jones played well and the Toronto Maple Leafs eventually secured a 2-1 victory in overtime. The fact that Jones started over Dennis Hildeby was a significant mistake by the organization.
Why do I think it was a bad decision to start the veteran goaltender over the rookie when the team won? And why do I think it was a terrible decision when not only did they win, but Jones has only allowed one goal in his last two games?
Well, it’s pretty simple. The Leafs goaltending situation is in a challenging spot right now. We may think that Jones is the answer because of how he’s played in the last two games, but he's essentially just a temporary solution. He's been able to play well enough to stop the bleeding, but sooner or later, the tape is going to break.
Toronto Maple Leafs Should Never Have Started Jones
If Jones were to get injured in that back-to-back game last night, it would have been the worst decision in the history of the organization. As mentioned, Jones needs to be their number-one goalie for the time being, and as a result, they need to protect that asset.
Since the Anaheim Ducks are the third-worst team in the NHL this year and had a few players out with injuries, I couldn’t think of a better game to give Hildeby his first career NHL start. Sure, the Leafs ended up allowing 28 total shots on the night, but they doubled them in shot attempts and dominated the ice from start to finish.
Jones’ night was relatively easy, so if there was ever a game to give Hildeby and get him comfortable at the NHL level, it would have been Wednesday night against Anaheim. Not only that, but on a back-to-back, even if he struggled a little bit, it’s an easy excuse as to why.
We have no idea how long Joseph Woll will be out, and at this rate, Ilya Samsonov isn’t coming back, so Hildeby is going to have to play eventually. The more he waits on the bench, the more his mental fatigue will wear on him as he awaits his debut.
Sometimes you have to rip off the band-aid and put your rookie into the fire to see what he’s made of, and Wednesday's game should have been that opportunity. The Leafs' next back-to-back isn’t until January 13/14, so we probably won’t see him until then, which is really unfortunate.
If you’re going to call up the rookie instead of Samsonov, I think you need to play him, so hopefully, we can see what he’s made of sooner rather than later.