Burke won't blame goalies

Maple Leafs goaltender James Reimer congratulates teammate Jonas Gustavsson after a win against the...

Maple Leafs goaltender James Reimer congratulates teammate Jonas Gustavsson after a win against the Lightning at the Air Canad Centre in Toronto, Ont., Jan. 3, 2012. (MIKE CASSESE/Reuters)

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:15 PM ET

TORONTO - Brian Burke claims he wasn’t the only general manager who places great value in the much maligned James Reimer.

Believe it or not, despite all the severe criticism being heaped on the second-year goaltender, Burke said he turned down “flat” an offer from another team for Reimer, before officially committing to him and Jonas Gustavsson with the expiration of Monday’s trade deadline. But in keeping with his general belief that this skid of 1-7-1 is an aberration, Burke did not add or subtract from the main roster.

“We were presented with a trade three days ago on James which we rejected immediately,” Burke said. “It was nothing we spent any time on at all.

He’s scuffling a bit right now, but we believe he’s a key asset for us in the future.”

The offer would’ve come after Burke let it slip he was window shopping for another goalie and it’s not known if another netminder would have been coming back to the Leafs.

“We feel we had to at least listen,” Burke said of exploring all options. “Nothing presented itself.

“Offers we got (on other Leafs Burke called the ‘usual suspects’) were to move players we’d acquired and for future assets and high picks. They were legitimate offers, nothing insulting. You do get insulted this time of year. You wonder if the other guy is mad at you or your dog bit his daughter.”

Burke also underlined support in Gustavsson.

“He bailed us out when James got hurt and we are very much alive in that (playoff) hunt right now.”

It looks like Reimer gets the start Tuesday at home against the Florida Panthers. He was obviously grateful for Burke’s blessing.

“You want to go out there and prove him right,” Reimer said.

Coach Ron Wilson, who has been Reimer’s biggest critic at times, was back in his corner after practice.

“We’ve seen what happens when James plays well. So he’s in a little bit of a slump. Both our goalies have struggled a little bit the past two weeks. But there is no reason for us to think that’s it for the goalies. They’ll find their form — the sooner the better — but they’ll find it. At the end of today (with the deadline passed), they can settle in and get the job done.”

Reimer then joined the boss in telling fans and media to take a pill after the weak Western Canadian road trip and three losses on the current homestand.

“No need to panic, no need to freak out. I think we’re three points out of eighth and we have two games in hand on the team we’re chasing (eighth-place Winnipeg). Win the games and we’re in eighth (with some help). It’s just a matter of putting it together. Detroit had a tough stretch at the beginning of the year and look where they are. You have to believe in each other and push all the distractions and negative garbage out of the way.”

If Reimer had the Wings playing in front of him, there would be much less doubt, but kudos to teammates for admitting they’ve made his life hell at times.

“The last couple of games, everybody is blaming Reims or the Monster, but I was a big part of that first goal (Saturday),” defenceman Carl Gunnarsson said. “Reims couldn’t have done anything about that. It’s not always about the moment the goal happened, it can be five or six seconds before when something stupid happened. We have to be better in front of them, be stronger and get guys out of there.”

Luke Schenn, who didn’t speak on Saturday, also had to atone for getting stripped on the second Washington goal.

“It shouldn’t have happened,” Schenn said. “(Coach) Ron Wilson is taking a lot of the blame, too, but I’ll take responsibility for that one. I think if we work together instead of everyone trying to do a little too much out there, we’ll be fine.”

Unfortunately, that’s starting to ring hollow.

lance.hornby@sunmedia.ca


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