We also know that Carlyle has spent the past few days re-arranging his lines in practice. Interesting, but hardly newsworthy. Coaches do this all the time. Scotty Bowman did it routinely during games, as do lots of coaches- especially when lines are struggling. Again, I'm glad to wait and let the dust settle before putting forward any heartfelt views on our "new look" lineup.
More pressing, for me, is where we are right now in goal.
A few days ago, I posted here that I felt that Reimer “deserved” to get the informal nod as the team’s number-one goaltender. It’s not that I feel he has been brilliant of late, but more that I like his resilience and steadfastness. And I still trust him.
This is not to diminish what Scrivens has done, or suggest he can’t have a bright future. I simply view Reimer as a preferred option to help the Leafs achieve what they need to achieve over the next six weeks—which is win often enough to reach the playoffs.
That said, Carlyle is clearly not disposed to thinking that way: he’s going to go with whichever goalie is hot or at least winning games. He’s not worried about optics, or trying to build the confidence of one goalie or the other, it seems. He is just interested in wins.
That being the case, as opposed to my preferred approach—I will say this: one of (or both) Scrivens and Reimer have to be good, very good, between now and the end of the season. If not, the Leafs will likely not advance to the spring dance.
But beyond that, if neither guy steps up and assumes a prominent role down the stretch, it will trigger a whole new round of goalie talk in the summer of 2013. The organization would see that, even with a supposedly improved roster and a demanding “new” coach (and a system seemingly geared to help his goaltenders), the team still failed—and did so in a Conference that is not exactly stellar top to bottom.
If that scenario plays out—two young goalies not grabbing the brass ring and not "stealing" games when given the chance—the Leafs (and their understandably impatient fan base) will be looking for “answers” somewhere else. Whether the Luongo (if he's still out west) sweepstakes scenario is kick-started again, I don’t know. But there will be much debate about what the Leafs need to do in goal next season and beyond. I don’t see anyone with the Marlies who is ready to be an elite number-one goalie with the Maple Leafs, so that means that, for all the draft picks and signings in recent years, the Leafs will still need a goalie—yet again, this summer and beyond.
Me, I’m still a believer in Reimer. But I think he needs to know he will play until he requires a break. This other approach of playing yo-yo with the goalies reminds me of how the organization handled Kadri the last few years. (As some of you know, I wanted him with the Marlies on a full-time, regular basis the last two seasons, but that’s an old discussion, now…) The brass kept calling Kadri up, then finding all the reasons he was supposedly not ready to play on a regular basis at this level- and then commenting about it in public. Maybe he wasn’t. But they kept him on that yo-yo, and every mistake was analyzed and magnified, way more than with other players. Confidence is fragile enough for a lot of these guys that it doesn’t help when a coach (or management) constantly pick at your warts. At some point, as I used to say here regularly about the Kadri situation, you just have to let a guy play—and play without a piano on his back.
Indeed, just let him play—full stop. That’s what is happening with Kadri now. He’s being allowed to play. There are expectations yes, but they are realistic. He is not supposed to be a savior.
That’s how I feel about Reimer. He should be “the” guy. If he’s healthy, let him play. And let him know he’s the guy, even if only privately. There is no need for a public declaration.
To me, he really, really needs to play himself out of the job; prove that he can’t do it. I think he can handle it. Will he be “great”? I’m not suggesting that. But he can play. Let him. We need him to be good. Let him prove he is. Or we’ll have the same old debate again this summer, next year, or the year after that.
In any event, I feel Reimer can do it. But what I think doesn't matter. He needs to be given a real shot and then show us all - including Carlyle, who is the most important guy in this discussion - that he can lead the team when it counts.
Over to you, James.