Is Ray Emery Brian Burke’s Answer Between The Pipes?

February 20th, 2012 15 Comments

There has been a lot of talk lately about the future of both of the Toronto Maple Leafs goaltenders.

Jonas Gustavsson is an unrestricted free agent this summer which brings into question whether or not Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke will attempt to re-sign the Swedish goaltender, while James Reimer’s future with the Toronto Maple Leafs has been slightly compromised due to injuries and some sub-par numbers this season.

Brought over from Sweden via free agency, Gustavsson has amassed a record of 38-40-12 through 97 career starts, including a 16-12-1 record this season. Gustavsson’s rookie season saw his post a 16-15-9 record, but he struggled in his second season, amassing a paltry 6-13-2 record.

A heart ailment and the death of both of his parents were key factors in Gustavsson’s struggles. That and a change in goaltending style that saw him go from a stand up first goaltender into a more of a hybrid goaltender as per the tutelage of goaltending coach Francois Allaire.

This season Gustavsson has had his fair share of ups and downs, culminating in a decent 16-12-1 record to go along with three shutouts, a 2.85 goals against average and a .906 save percentage.

Still, as good as Gustavsson has played this season, nobody is confusing him as a legitimate number one goaltender as there are plenty of questions about his positioning and ability to lead this team.

Meanwhile, after posting a 20-10-5 record in his rookie season, James Reimer has gone from hero to near zero this year posting a disappointing 11-8-4 record to go along with a 2.98 goals against average and a .903 save percentage.

Concussion-like symptoms derailed Reimer early on in the season. He too, has had an up and down season, highlighted by back-to-back shutouts against the Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators.

Unfortunately, Reimer followed his shutout heroics up with three losses in his next five games, including two games in which his save percentage was below .800 at .778 and .733, respectively.

When you are a young NHL goaltender ups and downs are bound to be prevalent in the early going, but with Toronto seemingly on the cusp of making the playoffs for the first time in what feels like a decade, Brian Burke and Company can ill-afford to go forward with two major question marks between the pipes.

For his part, Burke has been saying all the right things of late, even going so far as to say he has no plans to bring in another goaltender at this time.
We don’t disagree with Brian Burke very often, but in this case perhaps Burke should take another look, because the numbers don’t lie and the numbers suggest he could use an upgrade between the pipes.

With Gustavsson’s future up in the air due to free agency and Reimer’s skills being exposed as inconsistent, is there a goaltender out there that Burke can put his faith in?

One option would be to take a look at Ray Emery.

Originally drafted in the fourth round (99th overall) in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, Emery is just 29 years old. Through 196 career NHL games he has amassed a 105-60-17 record to go along with a 2.69 goals against average and a .907 save percentage.

Admittedly, Emery has suffered from a number of injuries including a career-threatening hip injury which led to Emery undergoing an operation where doctors grafted bone from his lower leg and inserted it into the ball of the hip in order to repair his right hip which had been compromised by avascular necrosis, which causes bone tissue to die.

Despite having the same disease that cost legendary two-sport athlete Bo Jackson his career, Emery has recovered from surgery and has rebounded enough to put together a solid 7-2-0 record with the Anaheim Ducks in 2010-11, followed by a decent 11-7-2 record with the Chicago Blackhawks this season.

While there are no guarantees surrounding Emery’s health, it is not very often a goaltender with his upside becomes available and with Emery set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer he will become just that—available.

Nicknamed “Razor” or “Sugar Ray”, Emery has overcome his reputation for being one of the NHL’s bad boys when he was with the Ottawa Senators, to rarely making the headlines and seemingly becoming a team player in both Anaheim and Chicago.

At 6’2” and just over 200 pounds, Emery has the size that many NHL teams are looking for in a goaltender. The fact is, while Emery may not be the goaltender he was when he led the Ottawa Senators to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2006-07 or have the agility he once had, he has not had a losing record between the pipes since 2007-08 when he went 12-13-4 with the Ottawa Senators.

At 29 years of age Emery is veteran enough to know how to win and young enough to grow with the team. He would be a decent option to replace Gustavsson should Burke chose to let him walk and a possibility of becoming Toronto’s number one goaltender.

Sure, Emery’s hip could limit the number of games he could play, but with very few options out there is he not worth taking a chance on? Just two years removed from being the Stanley Cup Champions the Chicago Blackhawks felt enough about Emery to give him a shot, how could Emery not be good enough for Toronto?

There is no guarantee that Emery will make free agency this summer and there is no guarantee that he would want to come to Toronto. That said, money talks, and if Burke could bring him in on a reasonable contract, it says here Razor would be worth the risk.

Until next time,

Peace!

15 Comments

  1. peterj says:

    He certainly couldn’t be any worse that what we have now. I also think Wilson should alternate the goalies every game to limit the expectations on either goalie and to relieve some of the pressure on them.

  2. Hudson says:

    We need a goalie like Rask. Oh, wait a second. Lol.

    I am starting to doubt the system more than the goalies. Seriously. We are not a defensive team, that much is crystal clear. I would like to see any goalie come in and have great numbers. Until this team changes focus, we’re going to keep giving up a lot of quality chances, odd-man rushes, and be running around our end chasing the puck.

    The Hawks don’t see Emery as a solution, could he be for us? Maybe. But I think Gus and Reims have every chance of being that solution too…as long as they have a team playing properly in front of them.

  3. Dave says:

    Agreed 110% Hud. Even throughout our winning streaks, I have always argued that although our team can be extremely exciting to watch with the uptempo game, the defensive coaching aspect has been lacking. I’m not sure any goaltender can fix those issues right now short of either finding on to go on a career year and be the talk of the league with highlight after highlight (doubtful). Getting the forwards to play tougher game and putting an end the incesent defensive pinching I think would help quite a bit.

    Dave

  4. Dave says:

    Well after that stinker by Gus tonight, does Burkie have a conundrum or what? Who does Wilson come back with? Reimer after getting the hook in Van City? I think your on to something with the buds and a goalie here dude. I think the shelf life on Burkies “We have no interest in trading for a goalie right now” statement just expired…..
    Wonder if LA would take Grabbo, and a pick for Bernier??

    Dave

  5. Jake says:

    Emery good grief not another lame duck to add to Burke’s collection . Lets not jump out of the frying pan and into the fire .

  6. Jake says:

    Dave that Grabovski and a pick for Bernier rumor has been out there all day . Not likely to happen just because theLeafs lost in OT to the Devils considering the way the Devils have been playing lately the Buds were lucky to get it to overtime .

  7. Mark Ritter says:

    Gentlemen-

    like you, I am not sold on Emery either, but there is F-all available next summer UFA-wise, unless you want to bring in the likes of Nabokov, which is counter productive IMHO.

    To be fair, Emery would be better served to remain a number two, allowing him to rest his hips…now consider this for a second, do the Maple Leafs have a true number one? Anyone? Bueller? I didn;t think so!

    IMHO, Emery, Niittymaki, Harding, Ellis and Montoya offer the best combinations of age and upside, but nobody really sticks out as a number one goalie. So, you are left to take your pick of the litter, and Emery would be mine, albeit not the best option.

    A bidding war for Nabokov will take place next summer, so he is likely out- I see Detroit picking him up. Brodeur will never leave NJ, Roloson and Mason are too old, and vokoun is NOT likely to come to the T.O.

    After that it is pretty much a poo-sandwich of terrible goalies to choose from! and no, Huet is NOT an option…lol…

    Take a look at this summer UFA goalies boyz…it ain’t pretty—-

    Player Pos Team Age Cap Hit Expiry

    Huet, Cristobal » G CHI 36 $5,625,000 2012 (UFA)
    Brodeur, Martin » G NJD 39 $5,200,000 2012 (UFA)
    Roloson, Dwayne » G TBL 42 $3,500,000 2012 (UFA)
    Niittymaki, Antero » G SAN 31 $2,000,000 2012 (UFA)
    Mason, Chris » G WIN 35 $1,850,000 2012 (UFA)
    Leighton, Michael » G PHI 30 $1,550,000 2012 (UFA)
    Ellis, Dan » G ANA 31 $1,500,000 2012 (UFA)
    Vokoun, Tomas » G WAS 35 $1,500,000 2012 (UFA)
    Gustavsson, Jonas » G TOR 27 $1,350,000 2012 (UFA)
    Hedberg, Johan » G NJD 38 $1,250,000 2012 (UFA)
    Clemmensen, Scott » G FLA 34 $1,200,000 2012 (UFA)
    Auld, Alex » G OTT 31 $1,000,000 2012 (UFA)
    Biron, Martin » G NYR 34 $875,000 2012 (UFA)
    Backlund, Johan » G PHI 30 $800,000 2012 (UFA)
    Harding, Josh » G MIN 27 $750,000 2012 (UFA)
    Conklin, Ty » G DET 35 $750,000 2012 (UFA)
    Danis, Yann » G EDM 30 $650,000 2012 (UFA)
    Raycroft, Andrew » G DAL 31 $650,000 2012 (UFA)
    McElhinney, Curtis » G PHO 28 $625,000 2012 (UFA)
    Montoya, Al » G NYI 27 $601,000 2012 (UFA)
    Emery, Ray » G CHI 29 $600,000 2012 (UFA)
    Johnson, Brent » G PIT 34 $600,000 2012 (UFA)
    Sanford, Curtis » G CLB 32 $600,000 2012 (UFA)
    Nabokov, Evgeni » G NYI 36 $570,000 2012 (UFA)
    Lawson, Nathan » G MTL 28 $550,000 2012 (UFA)
    McKenna, Mike » G OTT 28 $550,000 2012 (UFA)
    Leggio, David » G BUF 27 $525,000 2012 (UFA)
    Sabourin, Dany » G WAS 31 $525,000 2012 (UFA)
    Mannino, Peter » G WIN 27 $525,000 2012 (UFA)
    Bacashihua, Jason » G PHI 29 $525,000 2012 (UFA)
    MacIntyre, Drew » G BUF 28 $525,000 2012 (UFA)
    Munroe, Scott » G PIT 30 $525,000 2012 (UFA)
    Climie, Matt » G VAN 29 $525,000 2012 (UFA

  8. Mark Ritter says:

    If Grabbo and a pick is out there for Bernier I do it in a second…

  9. Dave says:

    Agreed Jake, its not likely but who knows how desperate Lombardi is right – would be a nice though!

    Agreed, Mark – the market is scary thin although I might take a flyer on the moose as a veteran back up if the plan is to keep Reims as our developing number 1. Agreed, that scenario isnt likely either….

  10. Mark Ritter says:

    I think what we can all agree on is that the Maple Leafs goaltending is not ideal and unless one of Burke’s draft picks develops quickly or a trade for a number one can be pulled off there really isn’t an ideal situation out there.

  11. Hudson says:

    Holy crap guys. I had not watched the game yet, and I came here this morning to read. And when I read from Dave that Gus let in a stinker, I stopped reading and watched the game in the span of about an hour.

    The second goal vs. us, I was like, yeah that was weak. I guess that’s the stinker. Then the 3rd was a stinker, and I thought for sure that was it. Then the OT goal, and I shouted out loud, OH MY GOD!!! And I am an atheist, lol.

    That was total shit goaltending. Wow.

    I will say though. Do we panic? All of the sudden you guys talk like it’s a sure thing we need a goalie – over everything else. This is one really bad game. It’s not ideal in net, it has been a bit shaky. But do we not need help up front? Grabo for Carter. We’re looking at 5mil anyway for Grabo. Get Carter, and have a bonafide first line. Bump Bozie down to third, with Connolly on the second. Trade Carter down the road if it doesn’t work out?

    We need SOMETHING to happen. I am not convinced it is a goalie, but shit, that was bad last night. How can we win with tending like that?

  12. Hudson says:

    I can’t believe I am missing Giguere.

    Should we call up Scrivens? I mean, what’s to lose at this point? We’re already almost out of 8th…

  13. Jake says:

    What an idiotic idea might as well bring back Giggy .

    Gustavsson gets the leafs to a point in overtime against a better team and he is trashed , makes perfect sense to me that reporters would want him on the trade blck after all it would be a news story about a brain fart on Burkes behalf .

  14. Hudson says:

    I am not sure what your point is, Jake.

  15. Dave says:

    I’m with you Hud – although I am not a proponent for bringing Giggy back, I would not have let him go to begin with with. How good has he been thos year in Colorado behind Varly? Good on him!

    Dave

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