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Can we just let Jonas Gustavsson play?


Hey, I love the whole James Reimer story as much as just about anyone.  He came in and settled down the single biggest issue the Leafs have had for years—goaltending

Oh, they’ve had many other problems, but good goaltending covers many ills.  Reimer provided just that.  And we’ve all come to appreciate his understated, genuine, down-to-earth personality.

So if Reimer runs with the Leaf goaltending job for the next, say, five seasons, I’m in.  Great.

But as we find out if the young man can handle the load (I sense he can, but let’s let it play out…)  I’d still love to see the organization get behind Gustavsson, too—and not just for public consumption..

What do I mean?

He needs more than the organization saying it still “believes” in him.  They should.  Hell, he’s only played about 50 games or so in the NHL.

The real support comes in this way: Let him play.  Just let him play.  Not a lot, if Reimer is truly the guy, but someone who handles maybe 25 games or so.  And just let him play, without worrying about Francois Allaire or his style or mechanics whatever.

There are certain fundamentals that goalie people always talk about, as in:  being square to the shooter.  Fair enough.  But beyond that, I'd like to see Gustavsson be Gustavsson.

We have seen, since maybe the mid-1990s, young goalies being cranked out, almost all of them cardboard cutouts, one looking like the next and the one before.

So when Gustavsson arrived two years ago, I saw him play and thought, “hey, this guy has talent.  He’s un-orthodox, but he's agile, athletic.  And he seems to love to play—and compete….”

But by the end of this past season, he looked like those talented yet struggling hitters in baseball who’ve spent way too much time with their hitting coach.  It’s mechanical, not natural anymore and there's too much thinking going on—and the results reflect exactly that.

Yes, Gustavsson needs to play to get better.  Absolutely  I’d just like it if he was allowed to play the way he did in Sweden, which I assume is why the Maple Leafs signed him as an older undrafted UFA in the first place.

If you can’t let him be himself, then the Leafs should send him somewhere (and get a useful asset, if possible, in return) where that will be allowed.  Then, they can bring up Rynnas or Scrivens or whomever.

Coach him for sure, but set Gustavsson free to play the way he needs to play—here or elsewhere.

4 comments:

  1. Amen. I think you can't really gauge a goalie until their late 20's, early 30's (i.e. Ryan Miller, Tim Thomas). Jonas is 26. The organization needs to give him time, and more importantly, opportunity! Confidence is everything in goaltending & the Leafs really haven't helped him in this regard.

    ~Jillian
    http://twitter.com/jill_and_tonic

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  2. Agreed, wholeheartedly. I'm still convinced he has some greatness in him we haven't seen yet.

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  3. I completely agree. I think Jonas needs someone like Mitch Korn as his goalie coach and not Fran├žois Allaire. I see Jonas's style as similar to that of Pekka Rinne: a big athletic goalie goalie who uses his size, speed and athleticism to his advantage. What Korn does in Nashville - and his time in Buffalo with a certain D. Hasek - is work on giving the goalies the fundamentals of playing: footwork, skating, positioning, save selection and recovery. There is no set way of stopping the puck, but the fundamentals are all there in each and every save. Not all goalies can play the Allaire 'blocking' butterfly style, but Allaire seems to be unable to adapt his techniques to pupils who aren't of that mold. I really hope Jonas succeeds in the NHL, but sadly I don't see it happening in the Blue and White so long as Allaire is the goalie coach.

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  4. I think the best coaches build on the individual strengths of each of their players. Jonas looked really ill at ease in his last games with the Leafs... What worries me is I think he's followed the same arc as Toskala - and Reimer. Great start, then a weak one per game...
    Maybe "too much thinking", not enough reacting?

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