James Reimer: Goalie Of The Future or Mirage?

January 24th, 2011 No Comments

The recent announcement that the Toronto Maple Leafs will be carrying three goaltenders on their upcoming road trip has the Leafs Nation thinking two-fold. First, given the fact that three goaltenders is a crowd, will veteran goaltender J.S. Giguere be moved? And second, if J.S. Giguere is not in the Leafs’ future plans, where do James Reimer and Jonas Gustavsson fit into the equation?

Last week Giguere told reporters that he would be willing to waive his no-trade clause if the Maple Leafs brass asked him to, leading to speculation that he may be on the move before the trade deadline expires.

Injuries and a mediocre season in which Giguere has posted a 9-8-3 record to go along with his .900 save percentage and 2.71 goals against average may be enough of a roadblock for contending teams to stay clear of Giguere, but given the fact that he has won a Stanley Cup and has a good reputation on and off the ice may be enough to entice at least one team to make an offer on Giguere.

Don’t hold your breath Leaf fans, the return for Giguere will likely to be small. In the end, a Third round draft choice should be enough to get a deal done, or the addition of another mid-tier prospect (something the Maple Leafs already have a ton of already).

Whether Giguere is dealt or not the writing is on the wall. One of Gustavsson or Reimer look to be the Maple Leafs’ goaltender of the future.

The question is, are either of these goalies ready to take the reins and be the number one goalie in Toronto, or are the Maple Leafs putting too much faith in two very inexperienced/untested youngsters to lead them to the promised land, a.k.a “the playoffs?”

Gustavsson has been inconsistent all season, posting a 6-13-2 record to go along with his lofty 3.29 GAA and terrible .890 save percentage. A number of tough loses has caused Gustavsson to lose his temper, often causing the young Swede to slam his stick into the goal posts.

Gustavsson tends to say all the right things when interviewed by the media, but one has to wonder, is Gustavsson mature enough to play in this market? Can he be counted on in the pressure cooker that is Toronto?

Thus far, given his immature behavior one has to think “No”, Gustavsson cannot handle the pressure in Toronto. The fact is, maybe he never will. Throwing temper tantrums in front of 20,000 fans never evokes much confidence from management or the fans for that matter.

On the other hand, James Reimer came up from the Maple Leafs’ AHL affiliate, Toronto Marlies and played exceptionally well, posting a 4-2 record to go along with his stingy 2.26 goals against average and superb .933 save percentage.

Six games does not make an NHL career, but Reimer’s play has a lot of Maple Leaf fans talking about him as the Blue and White’s goaltender of the future.

Maple Leaf fans have a penchant for putting too much pressure on their young players. The anointment of James Reimer as the next Johnny Bower may be yet another example where Leaf fans are expecting too much too soon.

Through 26 games, Reimer has a combined record of 14-8-2 with the Marlies this season with one shutout, a save percentage of .925 and a GAA of 2.25. Those numbers are eerily similar to the ones he has put up with the Leafs, which says something about his consistency if nothing else.

The issue for the Maple Leafs is this: given the fact that neither goalie is a sure number one, why play Giguere at all?

Going forward, Reimer and Gustavsson should get the lion’s share of the games. There is no value of having Giguere between the pipes, as any potential suitor will not be chasing Giguere based on the next four weeks of his career, rather what he has already done in the past.

In fact, every game Giguere plays could potentially irritate his already bad groin injury, which, in turn, could make it impossible to move the likable veteran.

Are Gustavsson or Reimer the goalies of the future? Sadly, nobody knows. It says here, it is high time the Maple Leafs found out, and if that means sitting Giguere the rest of the season, so be it.

Until next time,

Peace!

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