It’s the offseason, and I was able to get a hold of Ben Scrivens for a lengthy interview, cut into three parts. The first part deals with Scrivens’ 2012 season, both with the Maple Leafs, and with the Marlies for their Calder Cup run in the spring.
What were your expectations heading into last season?
My expectations were to challenge for a spot with the Leafs right away. I expected myself to come in and have a strong camp and I think I did that. I don’t think it was realistic for me to think I was going to make the team, but I did want to force them to have to make a tough decision to send me down, and that’s really all I could’ve done. Then from there, it was just to have a solid, consistent season, put up good numbers, help the team make the playoffs – that was a big thing for me. We didn’t make the playoffs the year before, so to play a full season being the guy in net for the Marlies, and to make the playoffs, that was my goal going in.
By doing that, that was going to allow me to be ready if there was a call-up, but you don’t sit down there and hold your breath and wait for it to happen. There’s plenty of team in the NHL from this past year who went the entire season with two goalies, with no injuries or illnesses or something like that. It’s not something you can predict. You don’t sit on your hands and wait for it to happen. You’re far better off to put your energy into playing hard for the team that you’re on. That was my mindset going into the season.
Hockey seems to be like a lot of industries out there where one person’s opportunity comes at the result of another’s misfortune. Starting where you did on the Leafs’ depth chart – on the Marlies – that opportunity came once Reimer went down. What was it like to get that opportunity, but at the same time, you’re watching a guy who’s your friend go through the process James did.
That was a unique situation for me. Again – having a solid camp like I did, my goal was to set myself up to be the guy to get called up if something were to happen, and unfortunately for James, but fortunately for me, there was an injury and I was able to get up and experience life in the NHL for a month or two. You could look at it the other way, too. For James, it was unfortunate that he got hurt this year, clearly I don’t wish anything like that upon guys in the organization, but you can ask James this too – it happened to him the year before to give him his opportunity.
If it wasn’t for Giguere getting hurt quite a bit with his groin and sports hernia then James probably wouldn’t have been in the situation that he was going into the season. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said one person’s loss is another person’s gain. So much of hockey is being ready for an opportunity, however that opportunity’s going to come. Whether it’s poor play or an injury or a retirement, whatever it is – or a one-year hiatus as it seems it might the case on some teams, you’ve got to be ready for that opportunity, and when you do get that opportunity, you’ve got to seize the moment and take it and run with it, because you never know when you’re going to get that opportunity again.
Your first start was against Columbus, who at the time, seemed utterly hopeless. Many said it was good for you to get a so-called “easy start” as your first start, but does that almost put more pressure on?
I don’t think it would have changed the pressure. I think the best thing that happened to me that game was how I was told that I was playing. Ron Wilson came up to me before the pregame skate, so it was only that day that I knew. If he had told me the day before or a couple days before, maybe I’m going to have some sleepless nights, maybe I have a lot of time to overanalyze what I’m going to do, which could be unhealthy for a first start. I think the best thing about that whole situation was finding out right before pregame skate, going out there, wrapping my head around it while I was just trying to stop as many pucks as possible.
The nap that I took before the game wasn’t as much sleep as I’m normally used to. It’s better to have a short nap than a short night’s sleep the night before. And then the game itself, you know what, I was again fortunate that the team played well in front of me. I had to make some big saves, but at the same time, I think you have to do that every single game. There really aren’t any easy games at that level. For me, it was a confidence boost that the guys gave me a lead to work with early in the game and I was able to kind of settle in, just try and watch the puck, and give myself opportunities to make big saves.
You were recalled a total of three times this past season. Is the up-and-down jarring at all for goalies in terms of timing or tendencies?
I think it’s the nature of the position. I’d much rather be getting yoyo’d around a little bit than stay in one place the entire year. I think I was a little more used to it. If you look at my year before, when I was up and down between the Royals (ECHL) and the Marlies, I was recalled and reassigned I would say five or six times, almost double what I was this year. It’s the nature of the position. You’re going to get recalled if there’s injuries, and as soon as the guy’s healthy you’re going to get sent back down. All you can really do is focus on trying to maintain your game, make sure that you’re playing the same game at every level, and just stick to your core tendencies as a player, and rely on those on every level you’re playing at.
You – along with several of your teammates – went from being around what was a pretty miserable situation with the Leafs at the end of the regular season, to what ended up being a run to the Calder Cup Final with the Marlies. Did being able to only focus on the AHL playoffs help from a hockey standpoint?
Yeah maybe. It’s probably not as simple as that. I think there’s a lot of reasons that we had success in the playoffs. Probably being able solely focus on the hockey down there was one of the things that helped us, but I think we had a great team down there. We had a team that gelled at the right time. The addition of Mark Fraser at the end of the year really solidified our back end. Fras’ and Holzer were dominant for us the entire playoffs. Once we had depth behind them, we had Stu Percy, Jesse Blacker was hurt at the start and he came back.
We had huge offensive output from guys. Simon Gysbers scored the overtime-winner to bring us to one win away from the finals (editors note: Simon Gysbers scored a 3rd period goal in Game 5 of the Oklahoma City series that clinched the Conference title for the Marlies. Mike Zigomanis scored the only OT goal of the playoffs for Toronto, back in Round 2). Matt Frattin got hotter than a pistol in the playoffs, we had guys contributing on all lines. It was a whole bunch of things that helped us to gain success in the playoffs.
Definitely being able to focus just on what we were doing was one of the things that contributed to it, but having home ice advantage and having the fans support us was also a big factor it in. We can list off hundreds of things that fell in our favour that helped us have a deep playoff run, but in the end, we also had some things that kind of contributed to our undoing. We had injuries at the end and it just really took away from our offence. That hurt us a lot in the Final. All in all, it was a fantastic experience for everyone involved. We’re looking forward to having success at all levels again within the organization next year.
Well that kind of axes my next question which was what were some of your most memorable moments from the AHL playoffs? You kind of already went over that.
I think all the games that we won. We won some real barn-burners at home. We were really hot at home. I don’t know exactly what our record was in term of straight wins at home (editor’s note: they won 6 of 7 at home in the first three rounds), but I think that we only lost the one to Abbotsford at home, almost our entire playoff run up until the Final. Being able to play at home, and being able to play in front of a crowd that was pumped up to watch hockey every night. It was loud, it was intense, and we really fed off it. A lot of my personal highlights were just being involved in all that excitement.
No I haven’t, actually. I’m sure if and when all this stuff gets sorted out, we end up going to camp or playing games with the Marlies – whatever happens – I’m sure I’m going to take some ribbing for it. You know, that stuff happens. Again, you could like at that individual play and so much stuff had to happen right that I can sleep pretty well at night knowing that it’s going to be another 50 years getting another bounce like that, I hope…statistically speaking.
See, if he was a real friend and teammate, he’d let you punch him. Just once.
Well I think what he realizes is that a punch from me isn’t going to hurt anybody. He’ll save me from embarrassment twice by not letting me punch him.
Check for Part II of the Scrinterview tomorrow where he weighs in on the Toronto Maple Leafs 2012 season and second-half losing streak, as well as the media treatment of the team in Toronto.