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Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen, seen here on Jan. 29, 2020, is listed as day to day. If that turns out to be week to week, this team’s playoff chances go from 'probably' to 'don’t kid yourself.'Jerome Miron/USA TODAY Sports via Reuters

They probably should not have put poor Kasimir Kaskisuo in the locker room after Maple Leafs practice on Tuesday. Because people will ask you questions there.

Kaskisuo was parachuted in to replace absent starting goalie Frederik Andersen, who’d been injured the night before. The obvious inference was that Andersen was out for at least the next little while.

So is that the case?

“We’ll see,” Kaskisuo said. He was starting to get a bad look.

Are you travelling with the team to New York?

“I probably shouldn’t say,” Kaskisuo said, eyes getting wide in that “Please don’t do this to me” sort of way.

Someone else tried asking the same thing in a different way.

“I’m going hour to hour at this moment,” Kaskisuo said, desperate now.

Apparently, so are the Leafs.

They’ve spent five years burning this franchise to the ground and rebuilding it from the foundation up. And now they are discovering that, as part of the renos, someone installed a Death Star-type fault that can blow the whole thing up. All you do to activate it is remove the starting goalie.

Head coach Sheldon Keefe came out a few moments later to let Kaskisuo off the hook and update Andersen’s condition.

“They’re calling it a neck injury,” Keefe said.

Here’s the thing about putting the words “they’re calling it” in front of anything. Whatever follows is often not the case.

It’s a bit like putting the word “ethical” in front of something. If you need to say “ethical,” it’s probably not all that ethical. Because nobody feels the need to tell you that the United Way is an ethical charity.

“Neck injury” sounds like code for concussion-like symptoms, or just a plain old concussion.

Like all the rest of us, Andersen is listed as day to day. If that turns out to be week to week, this team’s playoff chances go from “probably” to “don’t kid yourself.”

Even Keefe – a man who exudes positivity like a strong smell – sounded wobbly. On general matters, he was breezy. But whenever Andersen’s name came up, Keefe switched to a barely audible mumble that quickly tailed off into nothingness.

“Just with the nature of the injury, like, it’s something that just almost gotta be day to day, just manage the symptoms and see how things go.”

Well, that sure sounds hopeful.

For now, back-up Michael (Destroyer of Betting Lines) Hutchinson assumes the starting duties. Keefe talked Hutchinson up, as of course he should, but even he didn’t sound convinced.

Hutchinson has looked good as a starter recently, though he is wretched as a mid-game replacement. Allowing the Florida Panthers to put three goals behind him in the third period of Monday night’s game won’t have done wonders for his confidence.

It doesn’t help that Hutchinson will have no opportunity to relax. The Leafs season has reached its DefCon 1 phase. Any losing twitch will result in an annihilating counterattack by media and fans.

Wednesday’s game against the Rangers is not a must-win, but it is a for-the-sake-of-your-own-sanity-you-should-really-want-to-win.

The broader question is: How was this obvious weakness in defence overlooked? How did the Leafs allow themselves to be so dependent on the health and form of a single player?

The easy answer is that they overpaid their big four stars and had nothing left to give a second goalie.

There’s no need for a complicated answer, because the easy answer is correct. Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas erred in his accounting or, at least, in the manner in which the money was paid out. He spent the rent money on new tires, and you can’t live in your car.

You can argue all day long about whether Mitch Marner is worth US$11-million a year. What you can’t argue is who is more important to the Leafs right now – Marner or Andersen; or Marner or Hutchinson.

The Leafs can win without one of their 90-point forwards. They can’t win without a goalie.

That fault has rippled through the past couple of years. How likely did it seem at the beginning of this season that the Leafs might face a tank situation in February?

But that is a possibility now. If Andersen is out for any length of time, if Hutchinson looks shaky playing in his stead, if they have to stick Kaskisuo out there (current NHL goals-against average: 6.00), this turns into a race for ninth place in the Eastern Conference. And there is no point in coming ninth.

The Leafs cannot be seen to give up. But they are two weeks or so away from potentially needing to have that conversation with themselves.

It’s possible some deadline magic can be pulled in a trade. But other teams read the news, too. Any rescue operation will come at exorbitant cost. Teams may be happy to let the Leafs dangle until summer. They’ll need a goalie even more then.

You can imagine this thing ripping out for months, and we all know how well the Leafs do when everyone’s yelling at them.

If the season is in the process of being lost, this isn’t on the players. It’s on the bosses.

Failures to execute are easily forgiven in sports. Even the most cynical fan understands that sometimes things just don’t work out. Disappointment is baked into the sports-watching experience.

But a failure to make adequate preparations is harder to ignore. It makes the team look foolish and – more importantly – all the people who root for the Leafs feel likewise. Because even you realize that two goalies is a prerequisite for NHL success.

There is no changing the broad parameters of this Toronto team now. It is locked into a four-or-five-year window with its current core. This construction project is supposed to be finished.

Which may be why everyone on the Leafs has such a hard time talking about the Frederik Andersen injury – the sort of thing that happens all the time to all sorts of teams.

It forces the Leafs to admit they built the thing wrong, and may have to start over in order to get it right.

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