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Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Jack Campbell makes a save against Tampa Bay Lightning forward Alex Killorn in the first period at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto on Dec. 9.Dan Hamilton/USA TODAY Sports via Reuters

It is a commonplace of the bizarro hockey world of the Toronto Maple Leafs that all the bad things that happen to them are actually good things.

The team’s most effective player gets an iffy six-game suspension for the crime of skating through an area where a head will soon be? That’s a learning opportunity.

Another top player gets knocked out for a month after getting run over by a teammate in practice? Couldn’t have drawn it up better. That will force others to do more with less.

The out-of-nowhere goalie is stopping pucks while balanced on his head? Make sure to play him every game. Sure, it’s only December, but how else are you going to tire him out for April? These playoff collapses don’t manufacture themselves.

After so much disappointment, there is a strong Puritan streak running through Leafs fandom. People want to see them suffer before they’ll believe.

Thursday’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning was a premium suffering opportunity. After the Leafs bull-rushed their way through November, it’s about time for the preholiday mini-collapse that gets the new year off on the wrong (e.g. right) foot.

Naturally, the Leafs lost. Even more naturally, they talked about giving up three 5-on-5 goals as though it were a sort of accomplishment.

“Their team doesn’t make those kind of mistakes,” Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said afterward. “They got those mistakes out of their game a few years ago. They’ve won a couple of Cups since. Our team’s got to figure out when we want to get rid of those mistakes.”

Hear that, guys? Enough kidding around. It’s time to get rid of those mistakes. I’m putting it on the bulletin board so no one forgets: “There is no ‘I’ in team”; “Remember your passport”; “No more mistakes.” Now that we’ve got that sorted I guess we’ll see everyone at the parade.

One gets the strong impression that nothing would terrify Leafs management more than steamrolling the Lightning halfway through the season. Those would be wasted wins whose only purpose is running up expectations.

Or maybe the more alarming prospect is that everything seems to be working fine at the moment. Now that Auston Matthews has decided to start trying, the offence is humming. Thursday aside, the defence is less prone to howlers.

Most important, the team has apparently stumbled sideways into the franchise goalie it has spent 20 years hunting for.

Is goaltender Jack Campbell for real? As with everything else with this team, ask again in June. But Campbell has the gift every potential Leafs player should be prescreened for – he’s not prone to fits of deep thinking.

Why is it that the Toronto basketball team can be good, and the baseball team, and the soccer team, and the football team, but never the hockey team? Because the basketball/baseball et al players don’t care what Toronto thinks of them. Despite all that “Canada’s team” nonsense ownership is always going on about, most of them couldn’t find the city on a map.

They’re up here doing a job and feel no pressure to be phenomenal at it. They are the Tampa Bay Lightning of the NBA/MLB/MLS/CFL.

But the hockey players feel the weight of history crushing down on them. Mostly because the rest of us never shut up about it.

What you don’t want are true-blue types. This market chews them up. You also don’t want me-first glory hogs. What you do want are mercenaries. Guys who play hockey for the rewards of vocation, not the glory. Jason Spezza is a great Leaf because he isn’t out on the ice imagining himself as the next Dave Keon. He just wants to do his job well. It may also help that he’s so old, he no longer cares much what people think of him.

For the first time in a while, you get the sense that the mix is tilting away from the roster ingenues and back toward the character actors. Everybody’s seen the Matthews & Marner playoff disappearing act. It tends to dampen enthusiasm for the regular-season prelims.

So who’s the most popular Leaf right now? It’s got to be Campbell. He’s certainly the player who emblemizes the lunch-bucket self-image the Leafs are always trying to convince themselves is their true personality.

Since fighting fell out of favour, it’s been tough out there for local fan favourites. If you can’t punch your way into Toronto’s heart, how else are you supposed to do it? A goals-against-average of 2.02, a below-market-rate salary and a sweetheart backstory is a great start.

No one on the Leafs is more valuable to the team, and it’s a lot more than the quality of Campbell’s play. Nearly as valuable is the media cover he provides for everyone else.

Every couple of weeks, a new area of concern must be identified and picked over until it’s just bones. The current low-grade hysteria concerns the defensive pairing of Jake Muzzin and Justin Holl. Are they really good? Or are they the background actors in a Benny Hill skit?

It’s a pointless argument to have because there is no replacing either of them, but this is how things operate around the Leafs. If you’re not panicking, you’re just not trying hard enough.

But hanging over everything – over all the worries about a million little defects of quality and/or character – hangs the goalie question. If Campbell can whistle while he works all the way to the playoffs, it eases the tendency of fans to freak out. In turn, that makes things easier for all of his teammates.

Campbell’s been around for a couple of years, but he’s still new enough that no one blames him for anything. It’s impossible to say how he’ll react when or if that happens.

But for now at least, he is the calmest presence on a team that encourages constant mania. As long as he’s serene, you have more confidence in the project than anything reflected in the standing.