Frederik Andersen rules. We know this, even though a lot of people showed (reasonable) concern in his first few weeks. But he can’t play every single game, and right now, nobody is really around to play the other ones. Karri Ramo has a PTO with the Marlies. Jhonas Enroth was waived after some bad performances. Antoine Bibeau technically sits on the bench right now, but is he the right option? What about Jeff Glass? Garret Sparks? Kasimir Kaskisuo? Our roundtable convenes in search of an answer:
Short answer: I don’t know. Long answer: All of those options make me screw up my face a little. Sparks, Bibeau, Glass, and Kaskisuo are just not suited for the NHL yet. Straight up. Bibeau is probably the closest, but he’s stellar one week, and diabolical the next. Enroth has lost Leafs fans, he’s unpredictable. And since Andersen has been known to let in a few horrible ones, we need someone steadier than Enroth. And Ramo is coming off a pretty awful injury. Is he back to normal? Do we know? Will we know until we sign him? Is that too much of a risk?
In my opinion, it’s a very interesting debate between Ramo, Enroth and Sparks. Ramo and Enroth both have NHL history, with Enroth’s career numbers being a shade better than Ramo’s. Enroth is also coming off of a good year numbers-wise, whereas Ramo is coming off of a really bad one. Even though that sounds like an edge to Enroth, with the way goalies numbers seem to flip-flop, I think I’d give the edge to Ramo there in hopes that he has a bounce-back season where Enroth might have a crash-down season. As for Sparks, his time in the NHL last season was pretty telling to me that he wasn’t ready for NHL action. There was some speculation that he was hurt, and if that was the case I’d probably give him another try. Glass and Bibeau just generally aren’t likely to be NHL talents, and Kaskisuo is too far off for us to even know. Altogether, for me it’d be Sparks for now (assuming he was in fact nursing an injury) and Ramo otherwise.
I’d probably just go with Sparks as the Leafs’ backup. He’s 23-years-old now, has had relatively strong numbers in the minors for a while, and does have some NHL experience, even if things didn’t really go smoothly in his first go-around. The only hold-back would be that he hasn’t played much this season, with only six starts for the Marlies, but to get him up and practicing with the big club again would be beneficial. The Leafs don’t have any backup options I particularly like in the organization right now, but Sparks is probably the goalie I’d have the least amount of stress about. I doubt he can really be any worse than Enroth anyway.
I’m going to lean towards where Fancey is going with this and put my chips in towards Garret Sparks. Enroth might still be the best goalie of the bunch, but at the every least needs some time to rediscover his game mentally. Ramo “fits the mould”, but as I watch his second game of his PTO with the Marlies (small sample I know), I wonder how long he’ll take to get fully mobile again. Antoine Bibeau has done little to prove himself, Kasimir Kaskisuo has been bad at his best in the ECHL this year, and while I suppose you can take the chance on Jeff Glass, you may as well give one of your prospects another shot.
Sparks looked good in his first few weeks with the Leafs, but struggled later in the year, which I assume is where the concern is. It’s worth noting that he was recovering from an injury, though, and if you combine that with the fact that those horrible late-season starts came with the post-deadline roster… I think it’s worth one more try. It’s not an ideal situation, but that’s how I think you make the most of it.