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