What We Learned: Freddy Andersen needs a quality backup

Welcome to The Leafs Nation’s year-(so far)-in-review series in which we talk about something we learned about each player on the team this year. Today, we have Freddy Andersen’s struggles and the need to find him a competent backup.

For the first time since arriving in Toronto, Freddy Andersen showed cracks.
In his first three seasons with the club, he was insanely consistent. A .918 in 66 games in 2016-17, a .918 save percentage in 66 games again in 2017-18, and a .917 save percentage in 60 games in 2018-19. But in 2019-20, though, Andersen had some struggles, posting a .909 save percentage in 52 games, the lowest figure in his seven seasons in the league.
It’s safe to say that there’s been some wear and tear on Andersen as he’s played the most games of any goaltender in the league (tied with Connor Hellebuyck in Winnipeg) since 2016-17. The biggest reason why Andersen has played that many games over that stretch of time is because he’s had to.
The Leafs’ backup goaltending situation over the past few years has been a strange one.
Ahead of the 2016-17 season, Toronto acquired …

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Author: Cam Lewis / The Leafs Nation

What We Learned: No, William Nylander isn’t overpaid

Welcome to The Leafs Nation’s year-(so far)-in-review series in which we talk about something we learned about each player on the team this year. Today, we have William Nylander’s rebound performance. 

The 2018-19 season was a disaster for William Nylander.
The summer went by and the first member of the Leafs’ Big Three to reach restricted free agency was without a contract. Training camp started and Nylander wasn’t there. A few weeks later, the season got rolling and Nylander wasn’t in the lineup. This went on and on and on and on with Nylander’s image taking a hit with each passing day. While the Leafs played, he was waiting around in Europe.
Right or wrong, Nylander was painted as selfish and greedy, asking for too much money while the rest of his teammates went to work. That’s inevitably how fans are going to perceive a player holding out for more money when they’re already making millions.
At times it looked like Nylander would sit out the entire season. Hell, it even looked like he might never play for the …

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Author: Cam Lewis / The Leafs Nation

What We Learned: Jason Spezza still has game

Welcome to The Leafs Nation’s year-(so far)-in-review series in which we talk about something we learned about each player on the team this year. Today, we have whether or not to bring back Jason Spezza for another victory lap. 

Jason Spezza wearing a Toronto Maple Leafs uniform is something fans gushed out during the 2000s.
When the day finally came for Spezza to down the blue and white of his hometown club in 2019, it ended up being fairly anticlimactic. Spezza played 10:36 in his Leafs debut, a random, forgettable road game against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
A couple of days before, Spezza had watched the Leafs’ home opener from the press box. Despite having plenty of friends and family in the stands to witness his debut, Mike Babcock opted to keep the veteran out of the lineup. Spezza, unsurprisingly, wasn’t a fan of the decision.
“It’s more disappointing that it’s the opener,” Spezza said. “You want to be part of these games and it gives you things to get excited about. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed but I& …

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Author: Cam Lewis / The Leafs Nation

What We Learned: Zach Hyman wants to be a Leaf long-term, but can they afford him?

Welcome to The Leafs Nation’s year-(so far)-in-review series in which we talk about something we learned about each player on the team this year. Today, we have Zach Hyman’s breakout season and his next contract. 

It wasn’t that long ago that Zach Hyman was viewed as a boat anchor. A lot has changed since then.
Back in 2016-17 when the Leafs saw an influx of highly-anticipated rookies join their roster, Hyman was nothing more than a guy. It was all about Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner and William Nylander, the dynamic trio that was going to turn the franchise around. You had to dig pretty far to find talk about Hyman, a former fifth-round pick the team had acquired in exchange for Gregg McKegg.
That season, Hyman got plopped alongside Matthews in a top-six role. Everybody wanted to see Nylander, Matthews, and Marner form a line, but Mike Babcock opted to put the team’s first-overall choice with this random depth player instead.
Hyman would become a very polarizing figure. There were those who supported Babcock’s decision to place him with Matthews and Nylander because he added a …

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Author: Cam Lewis / The Leafs Nation

What We Learned: Auston Matthews is the best goal scorer in the league right now

Welcome to The Leafs Nation’s year-(so far)-in-review series in which we talk about something we learned about each player on the team this year. Today, we have Auston Matthews establishing himself as the best goal scorer in the league. 

Among the many things we lost when the NHL season was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic was an epic race for the Rocket Richard Trophy.
Alexander Ovechkin, who won the award in each of the past two seasons, sits tied with David Pastrnak for the league’s lead in goals with 48. Right behind them is Auston Matthews with 47 goals.
It’s difficult at this point to imagine that the 2019-20 regular season is going to be concluded (I’ll still hold out some hope for the playoffs), so Ovechkin and Pastrnak will more than likely be awarded co-winners of the Rocket Richard this year. That leaves Matthews without any hardware to show for his breakout season.
I mean, it’s sort of arbitrary in the grand scheme of things, but it would have been ideal for Ovechkin and Matthews to share that trophy. No disrespect to Pastrnak who’s obviously …

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Author: Cam Lewis / The Leafs Nation