Mike Babcock is aware Toronto’s goaltending hasn’t been good this season.
He’s also aware that Toronto’s goaltending hasn’t been good the last few seasons.
Thing is, he doesn’t want to talk about it.
“It’s five games in, isn’t it?” Babcock replied on Tuesday, when asked about the Leafs’ shaky netminding so far, specifically the play of Frederik Andersen. “Let’s just take a deep breath here.”
And here’s a transcript of what followed (courtesy Sportsnet)!
Reporter: The guy on Saturday night said the Leafs goaltending has been lousy this year.
Babcock: Who did?
Reporter: The guy on Saturday night — Don Cherry.
Babcock: Oh, OK. Well now that I know where I’m getting my facts from, here we go. Come on. Let’s move on. What’s next here? Holy [expletive].
Reporter: No, but seriously, it’s been an issue for this market probably since Ed Belfour left, and I’m wondering if there’s anything to that.
Babcock: But I’m not dealing with that. This is what I would tell you. We think we have a really good goaltender. At the World Cup I had three outstanding goaltenders, and they all talked about how much time it usually takes to get ready.
Our guy didn’t have that opportunity because of his injury. We’re real comfortable with him. Do we think he’s played as good as he’s capable of playing? No. Do we think he’s going to? Yes.
Babcock’s right to suggest it’s too early to start grading Andersen. First, there’s the adjustment from playing behind a good team in a small market (Anaheim) to playing behind a “growing team” in a massive, pressure-packed market like Toronto.
There’s also the additional pressure that came with Andersen’s acquisition price (a first- and second-round pick) and his subsequent contract extension (five years, $25 million).
The injury suffered playing for Denmark in Olympic qualifying was definitely a setback, as there’s no doubt some games for Team Europe at the World Cup of Hockey would’ve better prepared Andersen for the season.
Still, it’s hard to look at his numbers — 1-0-3, .879 save percentage, 3.63 GAA — and not be at least a little concerned.
Unless you’re Mike Babcock, that is.
Related: The list of struggling netminders is a long one, as it’s been goals galore to start the year