Before we dive in, quickly go and vote in my latest poll; Who won the Camalleri trade?
Well it appears it's time to add another team to the list of those dealing a bit if a goaltending controversy, to deal with; Sabres, Canucks, and Flyers have all had their own "mini goalie controversies." The biggest one coming in Buffalo, with Miller playing poorly and Enroth playing well, fans were calling for Miller's head. Now neither goalie is playing well, and the Sabres can't find their butts from a hole in the ground! The Canucks and Flyers have both down played their goaltending strategy, saying they are happy having 2 solid guys between the pipes. But when you play in the hockey crazed market of Toronto, you're likely to hear about any controversy lots of times but that can be multiplied by 100 when it's a goaltending controversy. As we all know, the media sometimes likes to create their own, but this season, right now, the Leafs are in the middle of a legitimate goaltending controversy; Reimer or Gustavsson. But let's go back to the beginning of the season, to get the full picture of what's going on in T.O
At the beginning of the season there was little to no doubt that James Reimer was the number one netminder for the Leafs, after his remarkable second half play in 2011. Reimer started the season 4-0-1, before suffering a "head injury" on October 22nd against the Canadians. He then missed 18 games due to his "head injury" when news first broke, many Leaf fans panicked, thinking Gustavsson wouldn't be able to get the job done in Reimer's absence. And they appeared right Gustavsson started a little rough, but not horribly, going 9-5-0 and winning 5 of the last 6. Then Reimer returned, thus everything was good in the continuing saga of Leafs goaltending, except for the fact that Reimer wasn't nearly as sharp as before his injury. Since returning from injury on December 3rd Reimer went 3-4-3, not the type of play expected from a number one netminder. Finally head coach Ron Wilson had seen enough and decided it was time to give Jonas Gustavsson a chance to see what he could do. A 3-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on New Year's Eve, was the last time Wilson had started Reimer in a game. Starting Gustavsson is likely the smartest thing Wilson has done all season;
Gustavsson won 4 straight games to ring in 2012, and went on to win 9 of 13 games, helping push the Leafs back into playoff contention. But after losing the last 2 starts (a 3-2 loss to Buffalo and a 3-0 loss to the Rangers) Wilson decided it was time to give Reimer another short between the pipes. Now despite Gustavsson playing better than Reimer and helping steal games for the Leafs throughout the season, his stats Still aren't what you like to see in a number 1 goalie should be sporting; Gustavsson is sporting a decent 13-9-0 record, while Reimer is 7-4-4. But here's where the stats get whacky; Gustavsson's GAA is 2.92 (33rd) and Save Percentage of .906 (31st) are nothing to cheer about. The team flat out plays better in front of Gustavsson than they do Reimer. Let's look back to January 5th, in front of Reimer the Leafs had scored 56 goals, while in front of Gustavsson they put up 69 goals. Regardless of the numbers, and whether coaches or goalies or anyone else wants to admit it or not, right now the starting job has to be Gustavsson's. Now I know Wilson is started Reimer last night, but who knows how many starts he'll give Reims, before throwing Gustavsson back in.
So where did this goaltending controversy come from; 2 places, head coach Ron Wilson and GM Brian Burke. "It's hard to say what the order is going to be," Wilson said. "I have in my mind who's going to play (Tuesday) night (against Carolina) and beyond that I haven't decided." Wilson then went to claim that he was going to play which ever goalie was winning games; a win and your in sort of thing. Since Gustavsson was the one winning games, Wilson decided to ride him for a little while. Then GM Brian Burke, came out and stated that Gustavsson had single handedly saved the Leafs season, and that the rest of the Leafs knew it was Gustavsson saving their butts on a night to night bases. Interesting comments to go public from a GM who likes to keep things tight lipped.
But when push comes to shove the Leafs are going to have to make a decision about their goaltending, I don't think Gustavsson has much a future in Toronto, they signed him back in 2008 and has been all but bust due to health issues and poor play. Right now he's healthy and playing well. Right now would be the perfect time to trade the young netminder, who may benefit from a change in scenery. Gustavsson is a free agent at the end of the year and will most likely walk away for nothing at the end of the season. The Leafs need Reimer to be the future, after signing him to a 3 year deal. This situation reminds me of the one the Habs had with Halak and Price a couple of years ago. So I have to think that Gustavsson will play the Halak role, meaning his time in Toronto is all but done.