On January 1st 2011 the James Reimer era began with a bang. Outshot 21-33 the rookie allowed a single goal to let Toronto skate with a 5-1 win against the lottery bound Senators. After that he started 36 more times accruing 3 shutouts and a .921 save percentage.
The Leafs grabbed 45 points in Reimer’s 37 starts which stretched to 82 games would have given them 100 points. Unfortunately for Toronto when Reimer wasn’t playing they relied on the services of Jonas Gustavsson and J.S. Giguere.
Brought in as a UFA the Swedish netminder Gustavsson showed flashes of promise in his rookie campaign. He makes spectacular acrobatic saves but seems unable to fight through traffic in front of the net and his reactions to shots seems off. It’s possible that he still hasn’t adjusted to the speed of the NHL game but he posted an .890 save percentage across 23 starts and won only six of those. Credit to the Leafs on Gustavsson; they shut him down after the January 19th game against the Rangers that saw him allow six goals on 25 shots.
It’s unclear what Gustavsson’s been doing, he impressed with short duty in the AHL to the tune of a .960SV% but hasn’t played since, is he practicing with Allaire?
I was a big fan of Giguere’s work before arriving in Toronto but he’s been injury prone and hasn’t delivered. What really makes me angry is this quote AM640’s Jonas Siegel got:
“Every time I got hurt it was minor groin pull, minor this, minor that,” said Giguere. “We always made the decision to keep going and try to keep pushing knowing that I would have to get it done by the end of the year."
This is the same thing we saw from Vesa Toskala; plagued by nagging injuries and rather than get the player healthy and fixed the Leafs continued to run out an injured goaltender and watch him get shelled. By the end of the season Giguere had almost no ability to move laterally in the net and opposing teams picked him apart as he tried to cheat on angles.
No doubt Giguere is better than Toskala in an absolute sense; he stops more pucks, is a better teammate (allegedly) and Reimer and Gustavsson seem to think he’s a good influence but this is an issue that’s persisted with the Leafs front office. Old goaltenders with hip and groin injuries can’t just shake them off and play effectively.
Burke has announced that next season will likely see James Reimer start with Jonas Gustavsson given the backup job. If James Reimer falters can this Leafs team win with Jonas Gustavsson in net? My fear is that for the third season in a row we won’t have a real backup plan in net and that’s a huge problem for a Leafs team that started giving up a lot of shots once Francois Beauchemin and Tomas Kaberle were moved.
The 2010-2011 Leafs will miss the playoffs because they got 56 games of .895 goaltending. Pray that we’re not writing this same thing for the sixth time next year.