It's that time again when trade rumours are flying all around, often it's hard to decipher between which ones are legitimate and which ones are a hoax. The one rumour surrounding the Toronto Maple Leafs all season is their need for a veteran goalie and once again with deadline less than 24 hours away a veteran goalie is all everyone in Toronto wants to talk about.
Talks have heated up again after Dave Nonis said he wouldn't rule out adding a veteran goaltender for the playoffs. News broke that the Leafs have been talking with the Calgary Flames about acquiring Miikka Kiprusoff. Here's the kicker, James Reimer and Ben Scrivens have played just fine and sit 8th and 11th respectively in Save Percentage amongst goalies who have played half their teams games. While James Reimer doesn't have a lot of experience under his belt he's established himself as the Leafs starting goaltender for the future.
Sure Reimer's numbers have been a little shaky this season and he's battled some injuries but he's starting to heat up at the perfect time for the Leafs. In his last 11 games he's 6-1-4 and has posted 2 shutouts (against the Winnipeg Jets and Ottawa Senators). What that proves is that James Reimer has been winning hockey games and that's all you can ask for from your goalie. Through his 22 games this season Reimer owns a 13-4-4 record with a .920 S% and a 2.52 Goals Against Average. Even more impressive is his even strength S% of .926 which is amongst the best in the NHL.
By the way the Leafs are tied for 5th in the Eastern Conference and are going to end their playoff drought in large part thanks to their goaltending, whats the issue? Whether you want to admit it or not James Reimer is establishing himself as an NHL starter and he gives the Leafs a bright future.
The major concern for the Leafs brass is the fact that James Reimer and Ben Scrivens have a combined 0 NHL playoff games under their belts. But let's not forget Scrivens led the Toronto Marlies all the way to the Calder Cup Championships and James Reimer was named the most valuable player throughout the ECHL playoffs in 2009. So they do have a little bit of experience playing in high-pressure situations such as the playoffs. Here's a brilliant idea, if you want James Reimer and Ben Scrivens to get some playoff experience, stick with them and let them get that experience!
The next question you need to ask is with acquiring Miikka Kiprusoff are the Leafs now favorites or contenders to win the Cup and the answer to that is no. With his poor attitude, threatening to nullify all trades by not showing up and his weak play this season, is he really that much of an upgrade over James Reimer?
By bringing in a veteran goaltender with playoff experience you're only slowing down James Reimer's development and not allowing him the experience you're upset at him for not having. What happens when you bring in that veteran goalie for the playoffs and then he leaves next season- you're right back in the same boat with two goalies with no playoff experience. Also if you think the Leafs goalies are inexperienced take a look at their blue line and then we'll talk inexperienced.
Bringing in an experienced veteran like Kiprusoff or Roberto Luongo would have huge ramifications for the Leafs in the future and would likely end Ben Scrivens' days as a Leaf, not only that but it could ruin James Reimer's confidence. Reimer admitted today during practice that all this trade talk about bringing in a veteran goalie to take over for the playoffs is bothering him, and he has every right to be upset about it. Reimer has been fantastic this season and gotten the Leafs wins all season long, no you're suddenly going to replace him because you don't think he can get the job done?
Now the fact that Leafs want a veteran goalie to come in and mentor Reimer and Scrivens is understandable and I've even said James Reimer could use a veteran mentor. But bringing a guy like Miikka Kiprusoff in as a mentor would be a big mistake! First of all Reimer numbers over the last three season have been better than his mentors. Yes Kiprusoff has playoff experience and a run to the Stanley Cup Finals, but he's been eliminated in the first round in 4 out of 5 playoff appearances. Also at the age of 36, missing the playoffs the last 3 seasons and posting an atrocious .868 S% and 3.64 GAA, there's some debate on whether or not he's past his prime.
The Leafs are going to end their playoff drought and that's great but let's face it they still don't have what it takes to compete with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins of the East. Adding Kiprusoff really doesn't change that fact, so is it worth ruining Reimer's confidence, losing prospects to still possibly getting knocked out in the first round?
The Leafs don't need another goalie, they have two very capable goalies already. Heroes are born in the playoffs- instead of wondering if James Reimer will flop in the playoffs maybe it's time to start wondering if he'll become a star and make a name for himself.