Leafs legend Ed Belfour
Photo credit: Toronto Star

The legendary Ed Belfour comments on Ilya Samsonov's up-and-down season in Toronto

Published January 31, 2024 at 3:25 PM

It should come as no surprise that many players find it difficult to play in the city of Toronto with the eye of the media constantly on them and the expectations being sky high every single season. Good players have come and gone and struggled mightily just to succeed elsewhere almost as soon as they packed their bags.

It seems like Ilya Samsonov is finding his groove again after a rocky start to the 2023-23 season, but former Maple Leafs goaltender Ed Belfour understands his gripe and has several words of encouragement for Samsonov as he works his way back into the starting role in Toronto.

Nick Alberga of The Leafs Nation asked Belfour to comment on the idea of the mental game and how the condensed schedule has affected Samsonov this year:

"Well, playing in Toronto is not the easiest place to play either. For the young goalies, I always feel a little sad for them and I was lucky because when I came to Toronto, I was a veteran, had won a Stanley Cup, and I could handle the press much better than when I was a younger player...

In Toronto, we also had a lot of help, I had two guys always with me who would look out for me and bring me out with the press and say 'you know Ed's gotta leave, he's gotta go do therapy or go to the gym'... it was a tough deal in the beginning when I first got there to get used to it as a veteran."

The Hall-of-Fame netminder played 3 seasons in Toronto from 2002-03 to 2005-06, where he compiled a 93-61-15 record in 163 games with a .912 SV% and a 2.51 G.A.A. with 17 shutouts. He had to endure the hardships of playing in the city when they were perennial contenders but unfortunately they were not able to get past the Philadelphia Flyers in consecutive postseasons.

Apart from his first season in the league, Belfour suffered through just 2 losing campaigns - at the end of his tenures in Chicago and Dallas - but bounced back the next seasons to the tune of a 37-12-10 record and 37-20-5 record respectively. He always found a way to bounce back and he let them in on his secret:

"So the young guys nowadays, I feel a bit sorry for them but sometimes it takes a kick in the ass. You get knocked down. The cream always rises to the top.

I've been knocked down many times throughout my career and my life and you just gotta have that inner strength and say 'hey I gotta be better' and you find a way - watch video, get on the ice with your coach, you work on the things that maybe weren't working for you, you gotta change your style a little bit."

Belfour finished off with some words of encouragement for Samsonov and any other young goaltenders out there:

"If i had played the same way throughout my career as when I was a rookie, I probably would have only lasted 5-6 years. You have to learn to adapt and get better all the time and change your style and even from year to year with different guys coming in front of you, defense play a different way, you gotta learn how to play with your defense, it takes a little while."

It might be a small sample size but Samsonov has looked to have turned things around after a grizzly start to the year. Back to back victories against the Winnipeg Jets where he allowed just one goal should have the player, the team, and the city abuzz if he can continue with that same intensity after the All-Star break.

January 31   |   613 answers
The legendary Ed Belfour comments on Ilya Samsonov's up-and-down season in Toronto

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