In his latest column for Sportsnet, senior NHL writer Chris Johnston profiles former Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Alex Stalock, now of the Minnesota Wild.
Frustrating. Weird. Disappointing.
And, ultimately, demoralizing.
Those are the adjectives used by Stalock to describe his 48 day stint with the Leafs during the 2015-16 season. Leafs fans may remember that Stalock was acquired by the team along with Ben Smith and a 4th round pick from the San Jose Sharks at the 2016 NHL Trade Deadline in exchange for James Riemer and Jeremy Morin. Stalock was placed on waivers the following day and reported to the AHL’s Toronto Marlies immediately.
Over the next month and a half Stalock would play exactly three games with the Leafs organization, all with the Marlies, before eventually departure the team in the offseason in favour of the Wild. Since then, he has re-established himself as an NHL goaltender behind starter Devan Dubnyk.
Stalock remembers his period in Toronto as, “the low point” of his NHL career. “Obviously I got put on waivers, which was fine,” said Stalock. “I needed to go and play games. Just not to even really get a chance with the Marlies kind of stunk. They had a good team that had a chance to win a Calder Cup that year.”
Remember, this was the year that the Leafs were at the bottom of the league and in the Draft Lottery running for superstar Auston Matthews. “I was basically told I was their fourth guy,” says Stalock. “There were a couple meetings, but it’s just like: How do you get up and want to play if you’re told you’re not in any plans or anything? You know, it’s kind of a weird spot to be in as a professional athlete.”
Things reached a head when Stalock finally asked permission to leave the organization and seek other options. The team granted his request and he returned home to Minnesota to clear his mind and sort out his future.
With Dubnyk now on the IR with a week-to-week injury, Stalock suddenly finds himself thrust into the spotlight as the Wild’s starter… and guess who happens to be in town tonight? The Toronto Maple Leafs. The team that wouldn’t even give him a shot in the AHL will now have to face off against their former goalie on prime-time in the NHL. You can bet that tonight’s game will be a big one for Stalock and his teammates.