Craig Anderson. Tuukka Rask. Carey Price. Jimmy Howard. And, if he is not traded this off-season, Ryan Miller.
These are the top-end starting goaltenders who will be in the Maple Leafs’ division next season, an impressive cache of puck-stoppers augmented by the shift of Howard’s Detroit Red Wings into the Eastern Conference.
Now ask yourselves this: How many divisional games do you expect the Maple Leafs to win against those impressive goaltenders in run-and-gun shootouts?
At first blush, not many.
In order to chalk up divisional victories against such stingy foes, the recipe for success would seem to include having your goaltenders outplaying the opponent’s guy.
That being the case, are the Maple Leafs not in better shape for success today than they were several days ago by having two young promising up-and-comers between the pipes instead of one?
It says here that the logical answer is yes.
It says here that, by opening training camp in September with 25-year-old goalies Jonathan Bernier and James Reimer, the Leafs have more potential upside in the crease than they’ve boasted in years.
Having said that, there has been a surprising amount of negative feedback from both the public and the media on both sides of the border concerning the Leafs’ acquisition Sunday of Bernier, picked up from the Los Angeles Kings for forward Matt Frattin, goalie Ben Scrivens, a conditional second-round draft pick in either 2014 or 2015 and $500,000 (U.S.) in salary cap space.
Has everyone forgotten the scrapyard of goaltenders who were unable to help the Leafs land a playoff spot during the team’s nine-year dry spell between 2004-13?
Here’s a quick history lesson to remind you: Andrew Raycroft. J.S. Aubin. Scott Clemmensen. Martin Gerber. J-S Giguere. Jonas Gustavsson. Vesa Toskala. Justin Pogge. Jussi Rynnas. Mikael Tellqvist.
Having scary flashbacks yet?
While the Leafs were slogging through almost a decade of robbing their loyal fanbase of seeing post-season hockey at the Air Canada Centre, the team’s Achilles heel easily was goaltending. It wasn’t the franchise’s only blemish, but it certainly was the ugliest one.
Did the Leafs give up too much for Bernier? Like any trade, there is a risk factor involved. Only time will tell who comes out ahead in this swap.
But isn’t this better than, say, all those Roberto Luongo rumours that were festering prior to the season, ones that suggested the Canucks were seeking Nazim Kadri, Jake Gardiner or both? Does this not bode better for the future than dealing for a 34-year-old goalie with a seemingly never-ending contract? Wouldn’t you rather have a roster that includes Kadri and/or Gardiner than Frattin and Scrivens?
The speedy Frattin has nowhere near reached his potential, but it was obvious he was not a favourite of coach Randy Carlyle. Scrivens is one of the most personable guys you’ll ever meet, but there were never any thoughts among the Leafs hierarchy that he could one day be the franchise’s full-time starter.
As for Reimer, he probably deserved a shot at starting the ’13-14 campaign as the team’s undisputed No. 1. But GM David Nonis has been intent on bolstering the team’s goaltending from the day he took over from Brian Burke as GM, so that argument really seems to be moot.
In speaking with the Sun on Sunday, Reimer showed what a class act he is. He didn’t bitch and complain despite the fact that some analysts have twisted his comments to appear as if he was.
Did the Bernier deal come as a surprise? Yes. Did he feel that there were doubters concerning his skills? Of course. Wouldn’t you feel that way if your employers brought in someone whose mandate was to take your job away? Damned right you would.
But if we’ve learned anything about Reimer, it’s that he is an uber-competitive kid. There will be no sulking. From the moment the trade was announced, you can bet that his goal was to prove everyone wrong. People have been counting him out his entire career and he’s always come out ahead.
If Bernier pushes him to do that again, that’s good for the Leafs. If Bernier beats out Reimer and proves to be the star many in the Kings organization feel he will be, that’s good for the Leafs, too.
Either way, it seems to be a win-win situation.
That being the case, what’s the problem here?