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 in the first place. UFA
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.