Yesterday, I wrote what I thought would be a tribute to Frederic Andersen, who has been the Toronto Maple Leafs goalkeeper for five seasons. In this post, I review the records Andersen set when he was with the Maple Leafs to suggest he should be remembered as one of the best goalkeepers in franchise history.
In fact, in my opinion, for all his playoff warts, Andersen was a great goalkeeper in his time with the team. He played big minutes season after season, especially during his first three seasons in Toronto. During the 2018-19 season, Set the record for most wins in a single season in franchise history with 38. Although he played an impressive number of games for the team – more than 60 games per season in his first three games – the most games he lost during a season was 21. The top ten of any season he played.
However, my post seems to stir up a hornet’s nest. Although some fans who were Andersen supporters and like me will remember him well, those commenters on my post were by far the least. In fact, the comments section repeatedly did not agree with my analysis of Andersen as “one of the best goalkeepers” in the history of the Maple Leafs.
What was Andersen’s problem in the eyes of fans?
In general, the fans did not argue with me about Andersen’s regular season record, which he praised in my post. But the problem fans faced was that he couldn’t lead the team to victory in the post-season series. Time and time again, fans basically said the same thing – Andersen wasn’t able to perform when it counted more – during playoffs.
Here is a sample of some of the comments (I edited them for their length).
1st comment: “Sorry old professor, but Anderson couldn’t get it done when I counted it and I expect the same from his replacement, but as long as (fanatic Leafs fans) love those regular season wins on their way to the playoff gag, everything looks good to repeat , if they make the playoffs.”
Second comment: “Only in thirteenth place in losses.” He was a game leader with seven crashes. You can win 80 out of 82 matches, but it doesn’t mean anything if you can’t even win one playoff round.”
Third comment: “Freddy is average at best, up to the playoffs, coming back to the quality of the AHL.”
Fourth comment: “Fact #5: The Zero Playoff Series wins as a card. The only stats that really matter. When the pressure started, he choked.” [Note: I had listed four facts that I believed made Andersen a great Maple Leafs’ goalie; this fan added his own fact five.]
Fifth comment: “Andersen clearly and simply failed. He – himself – did not win that first match to take us to the next round…It was time for him to move on.”
Sixth comment: “He was above average. But you have to stop the most important pucks.”
7th comment: I will remember Freddy as a decent foliage goalkeeper! He’s saved big and stole matches every now and then. I’ll also remember that he forgot that the season starts at the end of September and not in the middle of November! “
Comment 8: “You haven’t won a big match. Probably the worst big match record ever.”
9th comment: “Very good goalkeeper in the regular season, not so much in the playoffs… All the best to him!”
One fan summed up Maple Leafs fan content well when he noticed. “Unfortunately, goalkeepers are ultimately judged by success in the playoff – that rare ability to put a team on its back and go into a deep playoff. Nobody cares about Billy Smith’s regular season numbers? No, because in game time, he took his game to The next level and the lights were off.”
The fan added: “Grant Four, who was not a statistically great goalkeeper, would have given up the 5 in a playoff; but, if it was 5-5 on the third day, there would be no way he had given up the 6NS. That kind of mental strength was never evident in Andersen and the fact that he was the second best goalkeeper in every playoff that he appeared in.”
So where does that put Andersen’s legacy?
The fans are right. The fact is that Andersen was not a strong playoff player, but the team was not ahead of him either. I appreciate adding fans to my analysis. However, I remain firm in my belief that Andersen’s record in the regular season still places him as “one of the best players ever”.
I would like to thank the readers for adding the additional perspective that I should have included – and now I am. Although I think playoff performance is important, I don’t think playoffs are the end of all but not all. I think a great goalkeeper is a great goalkeeper regardless of his success in the play-off. Andersen struggled in the post-season, but the entire Maple Leafs team also struggled. Nobody did well. They lost as a team, and not just because of Andersen.
Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised by the reaction to my post. I think it speaks to the high expectations that Maple Leafs fans have in this team – Something Stan Smith and I wrote last week. I still think Andersen will be seen as one of the best goalkeepers in Maple Leafs history – regardless of his playoff performance. Yes, the fans are right: he (and the team) didn’t perform as well as they could have been.
Andersen allowed a goal or two to be scored, for example Against Columbus Blue Jackets. However, the team was unable to score when it needed to. As Andersen’s tenure with the team is recent and time generally improves our opinions of the players, I’m sure Andersen will be remembered well. However, I may be wrong.
Thanks readers and fans
As usual, I see the posts I write as a space for conversation. I’ve often said – and continue to say – how much I appreciate the fans who read my posts because they teach me so much about the team I’m covering. This time the fans went so far as to tell me (no one was enthusiastic or bad about their comments) – that they disagreed with my analysis.
This is what it should be. I wouldn’t change my mind about remembering Andersen as the great Maple Leafs goalkeeper. But I’m sure fans won’t change their minds about what they think either.
This is what it should be. Hockey is a great game. It is also a space for conversation and opinion. I’d like to thank my readers for adding to the conversation about Frederic Andersen’s legacy as a Maple Leafs goalkeeper.
The old professor (Jim Parsons, Sr.) has taught for over 40 years at the University of Alberta’s College of Education. He is a Canadian boy with two degrees from the University of Kentucky and a Ph.D. from the University of Texas. He is now retired on Vancouver Island, where he lives with his family. His hobbies include playing his hockey cards and simply being a fan of sports – hockey, Toronto Raptors and CFL football (Ricky Ray thinks it embodies how a professional athlete should act).
If you’re wondering why he didn’t use his real name, it’s because his son – who is also Jim Parsons – wrote about it hockey book First, he asked Jim Sr. to use another name so readers wouldn’t confuse their work.
Because Jim Sr. was working in China, he adopted the Mandarin word for teacher (老師). The first letter lǎo (老) means “old”, and the second letter shī (師) means “teacher”. The literal translation of Lushi is “ancient teacher”. That became his nickname. Today, other than writing for hockey bookHe teaches graduate student research design at several Canadian universities.
He looks forward to sharing his thoughts on the Toronto Maple Leafs and on how to fully bring sports into life. His Twitter address is https://twitter.com/TheOldProf