TORONTO - Maple Leafs assistant coach Tim Hunter handled the media duties on Monday as the club returned to practice, filling in for Ron Wilson, who was at the AHL all-star game.
And when it comes to the goaltending situation, Hunter said there “is no set plan right now.”
The expectation is that veteran Jean-Sebastien Giguere will start on Tuesday against the Florida Panthers at the Air Canada Centre, even though rookie James Reimer has been mostly excellent in eight recent appearances.
Sending Jonas Gustavsson to the Marlies might happen, but the Baby Leafs don’t play again until Saturday, so demoting the Swede, who has not played since Jan. 19, now would not make much sense.
The three-goalie picture is not something that is perfect, and those involved know it.
“We are put in a situation that is not easy for the three of us,” Giguere said. “All three of us are in a different stage of our career, and all three of us know this is not going to be a long-term solution. Right now, it is what we have.”
The play of the goaltenders, obviously, will help determine what general manager Brian Burke does at the trade deadline on Feb. 28. Giguere, whether he plays a lot, likely will remain a focus of rumours until the deadline passes or until he is dealt.
PHIL US UP
Not surprisingly, the Leafs came to the defence of teammate Phil Kessel, who was the last pick in the all-star game draft on Friday night.
“It is absolutely ridiculous to make anything about it,” Kris Versteeg said. “This is about the top 40 players in the world. These guys have all earned their right to be there, they have the respect of every guy in the league. Something like that, it is all just fun and games. It has nothing to do with his ability as a player, what he doesn’t bring or what he can bring.”
It would have been newsworthy had the Leafs said that Kessel, the only forward on Team Lidstrom who did not record a point, was picked where he was deserved to be picked. The Leafs’ plum attraction among forwards failed to score in seven consecutive games prior to the break and at minus-19, has a mark better only than John Tavares (minus-21) and Ilya Kovalchuk (minus-29) among NHL forwards.
And ditching the concept? Why? Fans ate it up, which was the intent, no matter who went last.
“I don’t think anyone should take it the wrong way,” Clarke MacArthur said. “I think it is great for the fans, and that it is what this is about — building up NHL hockey and getting people to watch. Fantasy draft, kids do it all the time. Fantasy drafts for football, hockey, everything. It is kind of cool how they did that.
“(Kessel) won a free car — I would take last pick and a free car any day.”
John Mitchell practised full-out with his teammates, but remains still a week away from returning from a knee injury ... Dion Phaneuf, on the first anniversary of the trade that brought him to Toronto from the Calgary Flames: “It definitely has been a year to remember.” Phaneuf did not indicate whether he meant for good or bad reasons.