TORONTO - The Maple Leafs like young goaltender James Reimer, but enough to bring him along as the third wheel on a long road trip?
“We’ll see,” general manager Brian Burke e-mailed the Toronto Sun on Tuesday, as the Leafs began planning for a four-game coast-to-coast jaunt that starts after Thursday’s home tilt against St. Louis. “James has been solid in net, calm and economical. He did not look like a young goaltender at all.”
Reimer certainly would warrant another look on Thursday against the Blues, with a 1.35 goals-against average and .957 save percentage through almost seven periods. Beyond that, it gets tricky, with Jean-Sebastien Giguere close to returning from two weeks off with a groin injury. Jonas Gustavsson is not the reason the Leafs are in 28th place, needing some offensive help to improve on 14 losses in 19 decisions.
It would be an awfully crowded plane that would be taking off for Atlanta and points west on Thursday night. But if there’s any questions about Giguere’s health and if Reimer stays sharp, Burke would want to keep him front and centre. That’s for the sake of the playoff-challenged Leafs -- and any interested NHL trading partners. Toronto also has raw rookies Jussi Rynnas and Ben Scrivens developing in the farm system.
If nothing else, the Leafs know that Reimer, a John Ferguson draft pick, won’t wilt under NHL game pressure. Coach Ron Wilson seemed to have that fear on Monday when he went to great lengths to keep Reimer’s starting assignment against the Bruins a secret, to the point of sending Gustavsson off the ice first at the morning skate and urging Reimer to tell the media he was not playing.
“I don’t want him to be bothered,” Wilson snapped when asked about the deception. “Around here, a guy wins a game and we’re ready to build a statue for him. Let the poor kid kind of relax and focus on his play, period. Like you would in every other damn city in this league.”
In fact, only one media outlet 'bothered' the accommodating Reimer on Sunday morning, the day after his first NHL win against Ottawa and the minimal fuss would have been through by 11:30 a.m. on Monday had Wilson stuck to protocol. The Winnipeg-born Reimer made 31 saves in the 2-1 loss to Boston.