TORONTO – Following in the rather dubious footsteps of former Toronto Maple Leafs goaltenders Vesa Toskala and Jonathan Bernier, Frederik Andersen arrives in Toronto having never started more than 53 games in an NHL season.
He’s the guy who wants to be The Man, believes he can be The Man, but has never been crowed The Man—until now.
So, Ryan Getzlaf, does Andersen have the chops to make it as a bona fide No. 1 in Toronto?
“That depends on you guys,” Getzlaf quips, referring to the poison-penned local media. “If you let him.”
With pressure packed into a hefty five-year, $25-million contract, and considering backup Jhonas Enroth has never won more than 13 games in a single season, Andersen should be tasked with the heaviest workload of his career.
“As a goalie, he’s been outstanding,” Getzlaf says. “He’s played some big games for us, and he’s played a lot of games for us. So when you’re talking about the length of the season, he’s been there for the grind. He knows what it’s like. I expect him to do very well.”
In spite of splitting time the last few seasons with other Ducks Jonas Hiller, Viktor Fasth, and rookie John Gibson—who ultimately won the gig in Anaheim—it was Andersen, remember, who carried the load during the club’s deepest playoff run since their 2007 Stanley Cup run, going 11-5 with a .913 save percentage in the 2015 Western Conference final.
“He’s a hardworking kid. He doesn’t let a lot affect him, which is good from a goalie standpoint. He’s pretty good at putting goals behind him and moving on to the next save,” says Getzlaf, happy to endorse the one they traded away.
“As a person, he’s unbelievable. Freddie’s one of the best kids we’ve come through in a while. The way he approaches the game [and] the way he carries himself through the locker room is outstanding.”
That poise will be critical for Andersen, who leaves the league’s No. 1 defensive team to join a 30th-place rebuild where the eldest defenceman is 31.
That the 26-year-old Dane is recovering from an upper-body injury suffered during an Olympic qualification tournament earlier this month won’t help. Watch the play:
“He’s progressing,” Maple Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello said last week of his No. 1 goalie. “We’re certainly not going to rush anything. Until he’s ready, we’re not going to have any comment. He is progressing. He has had no setbacks.”
If Andersen recovers according to schedule, he should be available just in time for the Maple Leafs’ Oct. 12 opener against the Ottawa Senators.
The irony here at the World Cup is Andersen would have been starting against Getzlaf’s Team Canada for tournament finalist Team Europe had it not been for his injury.
Andersen is coming off a fantastic contract year in which he posted a 35-12-5 record and .914 save percentage with Anaheim. But it’s another set of numbers that grabs Getzlaf’s attention.
The goalie stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 220 pounds. That gives Andersen four inches and 12 pounds on James Reimer, the Leafs’ best goalie last season.
“He’s big,” Getzlaf says. “He plays big, and he’s calming in the net. There’s nothing more you want than a goalie that can settle the game down and take over.”
Toronto is banking on it.