These four guys (The Rocket, Gordie, Walter and Number 99) sure know what an MVP is. On Tuesday night, just as the Maple Leafs’ playoff hopes were gasping their final breath, I read a tweet that said something like, “Reimer’s play since January stole Leafs’ MVP crown from Mikhail Grabovski.” And, of course, that got me thinking. Is that so? Who was the Leafs’ MVP this season? Reimer was certainly the most popular player, and the guy most responsible for the late-season charge. But, over the entire season, who was the Leafs’ MVP?
I think it’s tougher to acknowledge a player as the team’s most valuable if he only played half-a-season. James Reimer dressed for six games in late November, but never saw any action. Jonas Gustavsson went 2-3-1 in that stretch. Reimer made his NHL debut on December 20th, mopping up over the final 15:40 of a 6-3 loss to the Atlanta Thrashers. And you no-doubt know that he made, and won, his first NHL start, at Scotiabank Place in Kanata on New Year’s Day. In his 35 games, he’s 20-8-5, with a .923 sv pct and 2.52 GAA. The save percentage places him fifth among NHL netminders. He was named a game star in almost one third of his starts.
According to Leafs’ goaltending coach François Allaire, Reimer will start the last two meaningless games of the season (which makes me wonder harder why the hell J-S Giguère started that key game in Florida in mid-March. I’ve puzzled until my puzzler was sore). But Reimer didn’t play in the first three months of the Leafs’ season.
With two games remaining in the Leafs’ season, Phil Kessel and Clarke MacArthur hold the team lead with 62 points. Kessel had a seven-game pointless streak, then another one of five games. And we all remember the celebrated 14-game goalless streak from January 13th in Phoenix until he popped two, in Boston, on February 15th. MVPs don’t do stuff like that.
By comparison, surprising Clarke MacArthur has been much more consistent. He only suffered through one four-game pointless run (Nov 26 through Dec 2). But can a player truly be a team MVP with only 62 points? Perhaps not.
Nik Kulemin (with his 30th on Tuesday v. Washington) and Mikhail Grabovski (stuck on 29 since March 29th) have both surprised with their goal scoring this season. And Grabovski’s incredible run – when the team was struggling – was fascinating. Between December 6th in Washington, through January 20th v. Anaheim, Grabo had 15 goals, 6 assists in 20 games. He showed his mates what can be done on this club. Who knows, maybe that was the catalyst for the team’s late-season heroics. But shouldn’t a guy who scores 15 in 20 have more than 29 on the season? I think he should.
On the blueline, Dion Phaneuf’s second half has been epic. He has a 0 rating. Think that’s not a big deal? The other five current blueliners are -14 combined. And that’s not counting Brett Lebda’s -14 all on his own. And, don’t forget, Dion missed over a month when his leg was sliced.
And I’ve loved the way Luke Schenn has played this season. He probably started a little stronger than he’s finishing, but the guy has no quit in him…and seems genuinely p**sed when a shot by John Erskine goes in off him. Love that attitude.
I guess it’s pretty clear that, without Optimus Reim, the Leafs would have been toast long ago. But I like how there are many players who stepped up this season. Makes me wish October would get here fast.