Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Briere, Campbell, Husso & Binnington

In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I want to focus on the team’s goalie situation. First, yesterday the team moved out its goalie coach after seven seasons. What might that mean?

Related: The Maple Leafs’ Puzzling Reluctance to Re-Sign Jack Campbell

Second, I want to comment about what kind of goalie the team might need to go a longer way in the postseason. Building off that commentary, I’ll share information about Ville Husso, who’s been on the Maple Leafs’ fans radar for a while. Finally, I’ll even throw out the crazy question of whether the St. Louis Blues might like Husso enough to consider moving Jordan Binnington to keep him? The Blues are the team that knows both goalies the best.

Item One: Goaltending Coach Steve Briere Is Gone

It looks as if the Maple Leafs have decided that at least one of their coaches wasn’t up to snuff and should be replaced. Yesterday, it was reported that goaltending coach Steve Briere would not be back for the 2022-23 season. 

It could be that Briere was blamed for some of the goalie issues the team recently faced. For example, Jack Campbell had a second-half swoon or Petr Mrazek’s season was tough from start to finish. Or, it could be that he was the victim of being a leftover from another management group and head coach Sheldon Keefe (or Kyle Dubas) wanted his own person in that job.

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Briere had been the Maple Leafs’ goalie coach since 2015-16. The team’s goaltending could be interesting this season. It’s up-in-the-air with Campbell’s re-signing being an unknown at this time or whether Petr Mrazek might stay here or move somewhere else. This new hire will be one to watch to see if there might be any inkling of what’s on the horizon for the team. (from “Steve Briere out as Maple Leafs goalie coach, Lance Hornby, Toronto Sun, 09/06/2022).

Item Two: What Kind of Goalie Do the Maple Leafs Need?

In considering the team’s goaltending, what kind of goalie does the team need to enhance its chances for postseason success? The Stanley Cup race is unfolding in an interesting way, which I noted it yesterday in my post about the Colorado Avalanche vs. whatever team becomes the Eastern Conference winner. No surprise, goaltending has mattered in this Stanley Cup. 

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[As an aside, it looks like the team representing the Eastern Conference might be the team the Maple Leafs almost beat in the first-round, the Tampa Bay Lightning. Hmmm.]

Both Eastern Conference teams are goalie-centered. The battle for supremacy in the East is a battle of these elite goalies. In contrast, the Avalanche as a team has solid goaltending, but it would be hard to call their goalies elite. My point is that I’d love to see the Maple Leafs find an elite goalie to go along with what I see as a strong group of forwards and a defense that’s much better in my eyes than some fans seem to think. 

Anthony Duclair Florida Panthers Andrei Vasilevskiy Tampa Bay Lightning
Goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Tampa Bay Lightning is one of the elite goalies in the NHL
(Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

If I’m right, where might the Maple Leafs find an elite goalie? I don’t think it will be one of the experienced goalies who are out there now – the Braden Holtby’s for example. I like the guy; he’s been good; he’s even won a Stanley Cup; but, has he had his day? How much better is he than Mrazek right now? What are the choices?

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If the team doesn’t sign Campbell, I’m hoping they take a flyer on a relatively unknown goalie. Harri Sateri or a Ville Husso come to mind. Adequate goaltending will get the Maple Leafs to the playoffs, but only elite goaltending will get them to the top of the NHL when the postseason is over. Who out there could become an elite goalie? That’s the question.

Item Three: What About Ville Husso, or His Alternative?

Ville Husso’s name keeps popping up as a favorite among fans to become the Maple Leafs’ goalie of the future. Husso is a 27-year-old from Finland. He started the season as the St. Louis Blues’ backup goalie, but he was good enough to take over the starting job during mid-season. In total, he played 40 games with the Blues, and he compiled a 25-7-6 record, with a goals-against-average of 2.56, and a save percentage of .919. 

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However, Husso didn’t have a strong postseason against the Avalanche. In the seven games he played during the playoffs, his record was 2-5, his goals-against-average was 3.67, and his save percentage was .890. But that was the Avalanche, and they’re obviously very good. They have only lost a couple of games this postseason and have freight-trained their track to the Stanley Cup Final.

If the Blues don’t re-sign him, Husso will become an unrestricted free agent this summer. There’s a good chance he might not want to re-sign in St. Louis. He’ll likely play second-fiddle there. Whether the Blues regret it or not, they’ve committed to Jordan Binnington as their starting goalie over the long haul and are on the hook for his next five seasons. 

Ville Husso St. Louis Blues
Ville Husso, St. Louis Blues (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

It will be interesting to see what St. Louis does with these two goalies. Binnington has the better track record, is more established, and has proven himself in the postseason. Is it crazy to think that he might be moved so the Blues can re-sign Husso? For those who care, Binnington is from Richmond Hills, Ontario.

Husso was superb during the regular season, but is he a priority for St. Louis to re-sign him this offseason? Or, does Husso hit the open market? He’d bring a similar resume to Campbell when he came to the Maple Leafs? He’s about the same age and has played about the same number of games?

It should be interesting to track what St. Louis does this offseason with goalies. Most hockey people believe Husso will be on the move; and, it’s crazy to think otherwise. Right? Or, would the Blues consider moving Binnington? And, if so, to whom?

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The fact is that teams outside St. Louis know little about Husso. He’s played just over 50 NHL games, and could be a steal of a deal because he’d be cheaper to sign than Campbell. Or, he could be a waste if the Maple Leafs were to sign him. 

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

My recent post about not blaming Kyle Dubas for all the Maple Leafs’ problems sure hit a soft spot. It was probably the post I’ve written over the past three years that caused the most push back from readers. While a few readers are Dubas’ fans – as I continue to be, most readers laid the blame for the Maple Leafs not winning the Stanley Cup directly at Dubas’ feet.

In sort of a trailer for a post I’m working on, I’ve compiled readers’ comments to shape a post that itemizes the many “sins” of Dubas as a general manager. 

Jack Campbell Toronto Maple Leafs
So far, Jack Campbell has not re-signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs
(Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

One thing I also like about Dubas; which perhaps will be his undoing in Toronto (because I think if he loses his job here, he’ll win a Stanley Cup somewhere else) is that he’s too loyal to the players he’s traded for or he’s signed for the Maple Leafs. 

Given that “sin,” it’s surprising why Campbell isn’t among those players.