After Frederik Andersen was injured in the Toronto Maple Leafs loss against the Florida Panthers, the countdown was on to when general manager Kyle Dubas would make a move to solidify the goaltending situation.
With the way Michael Hutchinson has struggled this season, and how unproven Kasimir Kaskisuo is, there was almost no way the Leafs would sit on their hands while sitting outside of a playoff spot and losing more than they’re winning of late.
The stakes for Dubas are far too high, so Trevor Moore and a couple of draft picks are off to Los Angeles, with Toronto bringing in Jack Campbell and grinder Kyle Clifford. The goaltending is the most important thing, so for now we’re going to put off talking about Clifford.
The Leafs are desperate for a stabilizing presence in net right now, and they could really use a more trusted backup goaltender to give Andersen some rest when he does return from injury.
Dubas likely relied a little on his past relationship with Campbell to make the decision to acquire him; he traded for Campbell back when he was the general manager of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in the Ontario Hockey League. Campbell wasn’t great with the Greyhounds, but clearly Dubas believes in him.
The question is whether Campbell represents an upgrade in goal based on his play this season, so let’s compare him to the competition.
Like Hutchinson, Campbell has struggled greatly from in close this season, giving up goals at a far higher rate than the league average. It’s an area where Andersen has struggled at even strength as well, but he’s managed to lock it down while killing penalties.
All three goalies are about average or better from the perimeter, but in the high slot there’s a lot of separation, which I think might be part of the motivation for Dubas here.
For most of the season, the Leafs have really struggled to limit shot attempts from the high slot. They’ve been decent at defending in tight, which has insulated Andersen’s slightly below average save percentage from there at even strength, but Andersen has had to carry the load from the high slot.
Hutchinson has been below average from that area as well, which put the Leafs in a situation where their biggest defensive weaknesses was exploited even more harshly by an underperforming player.
Campbell has been money on shots from the high slot this season — way above league average. It’s a big bet to say that will for sure continue on a team that gives up totally different shots than the Kings do, but it’s an understandable one for Dubas to make when no one else in the organization is getting the job done.
Speaking of the shots a goaltender faces, we’d be foolish to not account for that in save percentage, so how much will Campbell’s workload change going from the Kings to the Maple Leafs?
One thing that’s clear from looking at the shots each goaltender faces is that as rough as Hutchinson has looked this season, he’s been hung out to try pretty severely by his teammates.
Across the board, the shots Hutchinson has faced have been more difficult what Andersen has seen, aside from slot passes in all situations. Not only has Hutch faced more shots per minute from the inner and high slot areas, he’s faced fewer from the perimeter, meaning he isn’t even getting the easy shots that could boost his save percentage.
Campbell, meanwhile, has faced significantly easier shots on average, with less pre-shot movement to deal with as well. Of the three goaltenders, he has the highest expected save percentage in all situations based on the locations of the shots he faces at .913, so he has drastically underperformed expectations this year, entirely due to that woeful .675 save percentage from the inner slot.
Struggling only from one area that also happens to have the smallest sample size could mean Campbell has a good chance to recover. But if we imagine that he maintains his performance from this season, and the Leafs play in front of him exactly as they have in front of Hutchinson, Campbell’s save percentage would be about .889, barely ahead of Hutchinson’s.
With two more seasons on his contract after this one, and a pretty solid 2018-19 to look back on, I still like this bet for the Leafs. But I don’t think this move is a guaranteed tonic to what ails them.