Toronto Maple Leafs: Mike Babcock is No Stranger to the Two-Goalie System
Union and Blue
If James Reimer and Jonathan Bernier are expecting more clarity in the crease under new Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock, then they’ll be disappointed. Babcock is no stranger to the two-goalie system himself, seeing Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek split time in net last season.
In fact, Mrazek started in all seven of the Detroit Red Wings playoff games and saw regular action down the stretch to close out the 2014-2015 season.
Part of this was due to Howard’s inability to stay healthy and his inconsistent play, but it was also due to Babcock’s strong desire to dress the best team and win. If this means sitting a US Olympian in Howard, then that’s simply the price of success. There are no guaranteed spots on his team.
Apr 1, 2015; Buffalo, NY, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier (45) makes a blocker save during the second period against the Buffalo Sabres at First Niagara Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
For Reimer and Bernier, this means more drama likely awaits them next season. Since Bernier joined the team in 2013, the two young goaltenders have been effectively splitting starts at times. Having said this, Bernier has been the preferred option in net overall, enjoying 104 starts to Reimer’s 59 starts.
That’ll likely change next season, however, as some of the luster has come off of Bernier. Last season wasn’t very kind to him: he posted a 21-28-7 record with a 2.87 GAA and .912 SV%.
Bernier’s contract status with the team is still in limbo, too. The team has committed to re-signing him through the election of arbitration, but from there’s, it’s anyone’s guess what form his new deal will ultimately assume. I can’t see him getting a five-year, $30.5 million deal à la Braden Holtby; something in the one-year range seems more probable. This’ll put added pressure on Bernier to compete for the starter’s job next season.
Mar 26, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs goalie James Reimer (34) watches the puck against the Florida Panthers at Air Canada Centre. The Panthers won 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
Reimer, meanwhile, has one year left on his current contract so it’ll be another audition season for him regardless of what happens to Bernier. At some point, the Leafs will need to make a long-term decision on Reimer, but that probably won’t happen until the final curtain closes on the 2015-2016 season.
Is this a healthy situation? Is it the best way to motivate your young goaltenders? Past experience in Toronto says no, but it looks like the Leafs will take another kick at the can. The difference this time is Babcock and his strong desire to win.
I hope that’s enough to make things work this time.
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