At a crucial moment in a season or game, there may be no more polarizing position than that of an NHL goalie. Do your job and keep that tiny black disc out of that net and you may be showered with praise and accolades. Fail to do so, and your head on a platter will be the demand of thousands, if not millions of irate hockey fans. Thankfully for many goaltenders who have suffered the latter fate, their GMs are, for the most part, immune to the rants and ravings of the hockey fanbase. Brian Burke may not be so willing to offer the same mercy to his young goalies, with whom it now appears lies the power to make or break this Leafs’ season.
Since Jonas Gustavsson’s horrendous outing that cost the Leafs a crucial point against the Devils on Tuesday, I have heard all sorts of varying opinions bandied about the Barilkosphere. “Well, when we let Gus start the majority of the games, we played well. When Reimer gets the starting load, we lose.” “It’s not Gus’s fault he has no confidence, the goalie situation has been handled wrong.” “Pack Gus up for a bag of pucks and pay for his bus ticket outta town.”
In my mind, there’s a simple answer to all the questions circling the future of the Leafs’ net. With Mark Owuya, Jussi Rynnas, Ben Scrivens and of course, James Reimer already in the fold, it is an almost guaranteed fact (in my mind, at least) that Gustavsson will not be playing in the Blue and White next season. The contract he was given two seasons ago after a tough rookie campaign was an obvious trial offer. He had two years to show what he could do, and after dropping an absolute stinker last season, hasn’t done much to prove he’s a bona fide NHL starter this season. Sure, there have been flashes of brilliance, but he’s only truly stolen one, maybe two wins for his young club. That penchant for giving up weak goals is an absolute confidence killer, and I can’t think that Burke loves the idea of building for the future with a goalie that has serious mental lapses at least once or twice a night. Reimer has two years left on his deal, I’m praying like crazy this season was a sophomore slump made worse by that douchebag Gionta’s hit to the head, and oh by the way, Reimer is only 23 years old. (Gus is 27 and still hasn’t figured out life in the NHL – case closed)
Of course, that doesn’t solve the immediate issue which is that the Leafs are, despite their current funk, still directly in the thick of the battle for the last few playoff spots. (I know, Ottawa is way ahead in points, but the Leafs also hold a few games in hand. The Sens are just as young as the Leafs, I’m waiting for them to hit the wall.) Does a low playoff berth justify moving assets out for a veteran goalie to come in and steady the ship? (I’ve heard Dwayne Roloson’s name tossed around, as well as Evgeni Nabokov) There aren’t many goalies going to be out on the free agent market next season, and even if there were, the Leafs don’t have tons of cap space to throw at them. The confidence level in Gustavsson has to be at a near all-time low (I say near, because, as bad as Tuesday was, he’s been worse before), while Reimer’s numbers on the season are actually worse than his. Frankly, there is no easy solution, and I’m glad I’m not the one making the decision that could ultimately make or break the Leafs’ season. Make the jump for some outside discussion on the goalie situation.
- PPP wants to know what game Gustavsson was watching after his post-game interview.
- Mike Augello says it’s time to go with Reimer.
- Brian Burke was on TSN Radio, where he was asked whether or not he was in the market for