Toronto Maple Leafs: The Annual Goaltending Games
The Toronto Maple Leafs enter the new season with a fresh crop of forward depth, some new faces on the blue line, and to the surprise of many, some familiarity in the goal crease. James Reimer returns after speculation that he would request a one-way ticket out of Toronto. The rumors surrounding Reimer’s departure were based on the assumption that he was unhappy with his role with the Leafs and his relationship with head coach Randy Carlyle. Those ideas went out the window after he signed a new contract.
Apr 8, 2014; Tampa, FL, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs goalie James Reimer (34) reacts after giving up a goal to Tampa Bay Lightning during the second period at Tampa Bay Times Forum. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
I have always respected James Reimer, mainly for the fact that he helped carry this team out of an eight year playoff drought. Aside from that, he plays with a ton of heart and…wait that’s it. Unfortunately for Optimus Reim, being an all-around good guy doesn’t get you a starting job in the National Hockey League.
The point is, the Maple Leafs brought Jonathan Bernier here for a reason; to be the number one goaltender that everyone knows he is capable of.
Mar 10, 2014; Anaheim, CA, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier (45) during a break in play against the Anaheim Ducks during the second period at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
It makes sense that when the Leafs acquired Bernier last season, they gave Reimer a fair shot at competing for the starting job. They did so in the pre-season, and Reimer was even given the start in the season opener. As the season went on however, there was zero progress made on establishing a starting goalie. It could be argued that the Leafs were doing just fine rolling with both guys and going with the hot hand. The results clearly show that this was not the case.
During an eight game stretch between November 25th and December 8th, Reimer and Bernier were alternated every single game. The team lost six of those eight games. Neither Bernier nor Reimer were able to establish any momentum with the constant changes and their unpredictable schedule. Carlyle’s message was made very clear by the way he scheduled his goalies. If you win, you can try again, if you lose, you can sit on the bench. Once in a blue moon he woke up on the right side of the bed, then maybe he would give Bernier his third start in a row.
This game plan dragged on for more than half the season. Even then so many questions still remained. At some point, you have to take the numbers into account and use your better goalie like most teams do, as a number one. Statistically and fundamentally, Bernier is the obvious choice. Isn’t that why the Leafs traded for him?
Jonathan Bernier has the better save percentage, goals against average, and winning percentage. We can throw in rebound control, potential, and overall makeup of a number one goalie because those are just obvious. The Maple Leafs did not make the playoffs last year and they did not designate a number one goaltender.
Someone please lay out these facts to the coaching staff, since I don’t think anyone else has the power to make the decision… As Toronto Star’s Kevin McGran tweeted a couple weeks ago, Carlyle’s strategy has not changed.
The last team that was able to pull this off was the 2008 Detroit Red Wings, with Dominik Hasek and Chris Osgood nearly splitting the duties in half during the regular season. They went on to win the President’s Trophy and the Stanley Cup. I think it would be wise for the Leafs to accept that the Wings had a very special roster that year. A quote from Randy Carlyle originally from the National Post gives us an idea of what is to come.
"“Well, right now, and I’m going to say it, it’s 1A and 1B. And you laugh at me, and you say he’s full of this, he’s full of that, well, the reality is if you go to every team, you have to have somebody that’s going to emerge and be your guy. Usually that happens over the course of the first 40 games. That’s what happened to us last year.”"
Maybe I just miss the days of Curtis Joseph starting 65+ games a season. There was no question that more often than not, Cujo was going to be backstopping the Buds and fans knew what they were getting.
Dec 31, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Red Wings former forward Mickey Redmond (20) shoots on Toronto Maple Leafs former goalie Curtis Joseph (31) during the Alumni Showdown as part of the Winter Classic at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
He was the one guy who fans would depend on and hold accountable at the same time. It’s time for Jonathan Bernier to be that guy. If James Reimer can check his ego at the door, for the sake of the team, he can be one of the best back-ups in the league. I would be more than happy having Reimer as the guy to give Bernier a rest once in a while or waiting on deck in case of an injury.
What exactly do I want? I would love to see Jonathan Bernier start 60+ games this season, holding down the number one job right out of the gate.
Jan 28, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender James Reimer (34) watches goaltender Jonathan Bernier (45) put on his helmet during a break in the action against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the third period at the Air Canada Centre. Toronto defeated Tampa Bay 3-2. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
It will be interesting to see how the starts are divided up between the two to start the year. Will Reimer be on a short leash, or will Carlyle be too afraid to hurt his fragile ego?
Fellow members of the blue and white community, let me know what you think about the goalie situation in Toronto. Do you agree that Bernier should be the hands down starter from day one? Or should the first half of the season be a try-out for the second half?
Share your opinion in the comments section below.