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One of Scrivens or Reimer has to grab the ball and run with it…or…

I recognize that Leafland is a-flutter (it was actually a-Twitter earlier on Tuesday) with the news that Jake Gardiner was back with the big club and Holzer was headed back for more time with the AHL Marlies. That's interesting, but I'll reserve judgment for now, except to say it is hardly a surprise.  If anything, as I suggested in a recent post, Gardiner's agent merely delayed what the Leafs were already planning.  Will young Jake be a "saviour".  Let's wait on that.

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.


  1. They have to win on Wednesday. Somebody has to play a good game.

    Winnipeg, Ottawa and the Rangers won tonight, so there is a logjam at 32 points. This is where we see if we have a real team. If Toronto doesn't win on Wednesday, they could be out of a playoff spot by Thursday night.

  2. You said it, DP. We'll see if one (or both) of our goaltenders can step up and help steal some games. We need a full team effort and everyone pulling their weight and doing their job. It all goes hand in hand. But if our goalies play really well, they can be the difference-makers.

  3. Even if James gets the next start tomorrow, I think that 7 games in 10 nights will provide ample leeway to anticipate Randy using both goalies leading up to the trade deadline.

    That said only Wed/Thursday are back to back, so there's a chance that success in the next 2 days could provide the most successful one to grab the net for a run. I'm hoping Reimer regains his early season form and goes on a bit of a run, since he does seem to have the best tools.

    I must say I like both of our tandem and believe they both have great attitudes and perceptions of their role.

    It'd be great to finally take the Bruins down a notch or two in the coming days! Looking forward to some bounces going our way when we show some consistency for a full 60 minutes!

  4. Oops... 25th and 26th are back-to-back as well, so opportunity for options abounds beyond my comments!

  5. As you well now, the Bruins have been struggling holding on to leads of late, InTimeFor62. That kind of thing can get in your head, and I wonder if that's happening with Boston right now. We'll see how that plays out Saturday and Monday against them...

    1. "I wonder if that's happening with Boston right now."

      Injuries are starting to hurt Boston. David Krejci, Chris Kelly... McQuaid got hurt tonight. This might be Toronto's chance to finally beat Boston.

  6. Michael,

    I get where you are coming from on Reimer and Scrivens. Call it feel, or whatever you like. If I was forced to pick which guy I think has the best chance to be a star, I choose Reimer. No real reason behind that decision, other than I am more confident in him to make saves. I almost never flinch when a shot is taken on him. It used to be the case with the Leafs and whoever was in net, that I expected the puck to go in. I don't anymore. I do hope that one of them runs with the ball so to speak and gets us a fantastic string of really stellar goaltending, and of course, a lot of wins. I feel pretty upbeat about things, nice job. Bring on the Lightning.

  7. Most of us as Leaf fans are probably disposed to thinking the roof will fall in, Jim, but when I look around the East again this season, I see parity and all kinds of teams who struggle and are running hot and cold. And for all the teams that have "name" goalies who are considered stars, I'm not sure how many of those teams have goalies who are actually playing lights out these days. So I'll maintain an optimistic posture- in part because the Leafs can be better, and those around them won't necessarily be. Thanks Jim.

  8. Reimer and Scrivens have been our second and third best player this year behind Kadri.

    They are both top 15 in save percentage. We simply cannot expect to do better than two of them. Blaming our lack of success on the two of them is not at all reasonable.

  9. "James Reimer looks to be tonight's starter vs. Tampa."

  10. I will start off by saying - again - that I like both our goalies. I think each brings something different to our team, and I don't feel one is clearly better than the other. I also get the feeling that is more or less your feelings on the two, although you lean more to Reimer.

    You say Reimer "deserves" to be #1, should be told so and would have to play himself out of the job for the sake of beeing fair to him.

    I beleive the same could be said of Scrivens. Why should he be #2 if he is not inferior to Reimer? Reimer deserves "peace of mind" but Scrivens doesn't? To boost one guys confidence, you lower the others'.

    Playing both of them as has been done so far I think is the right thing to do. As there isn't a clear #1, this is how they play themselves out of the starting job. When one has a rough game the other steps in. If they know this is the situation, they accept it and are ready for when their turn comes.

    I also believe one of them will not be back next year (at least with the big club).

  11. I'm not sure where your comment is coming from on this one, BCapp. I've consistently supported Reimer here, when others wanted him gone- or on the bench. I'm fine with Scrivens, too.

    I don't think I "blamed" them anywhere in this piece, or in previous columns for that matter. Check it out. Where others have said Reimer has not been good since his injury return, I've held a different view.

    What "lack of success"? I've said here regularly the team has exceeded my wildest expectations- and those of most fans, if they're honest. I'm confused by your comment.

    I'm simply saying that in my view (and it is that only, the view of one solitary fan), Reimer should be "the guy" the rest of the way. And if so, he has a great opportunity to shine. I hope he does.

    If he doesn't, I am saying that management - and fans - will spend another off-season wondering. That's not a fair comment?

  12. We just look at the same puzzle a bit differently, portuguese leaf. That's fair.

    I see Reimer as deserving of being number-one, given this is his third season here and that he backstopped the team to it's early success this season.

    I don't, personally, see why Scrivens' confidence would be shaken by being an NHL back-up- since he's never been an NHL starter before, and barely been in the league at all. I would think he would be thrilled to be in the NHL.

    Both are competitive guys and that's great to see.

    My sense is neither would be playing much if, say, Luongo were here. And then none of us would much care, I'm guessing.

    Thanks portuguese leaf.

  13. nothing really to add here... i like reimer and scrivens a lot better than the last several leafs starting goalies (raycroft, toskala, gus), so hopefully the team can rally around their strong-play! go leafs go!

  14. I don't think our goalies are a problem, I think our D is a problem! Reimer seems to have suffered a small setback since his knee injury, to my eyes. I'm pretty sure his save percentage is down - though again, that's as much a failing of the D as the goalie - and he's reverted to a couple of his bad habits, like ducking on high shots, thus opening up the top shelf, and freezing after a close call, as if he's giving the photographers an extra second to get a shot.
    I think both he and Scrivens have improved this year, and hopefully will continue to improve.
    As for designating one or the other goalie our #1... it seemed to me we'd done that. Reimer appeared to be back to #1 after his injury, until he was pulled the other night. And I get the sense the organization wants him to be the #1, with Scrivens a solid back-up. But, as we all know, it's a true meritocracy this year, and neither goalie has played well enough, consistently enough, to grab the top spot. I don't see what else they can do put play the hot hand until a #1 emerges.

  15. Thanks for chiming in Alex C.- If both guys play well, all the better!

  16. Hi Gerund O'- big stretch of games coming up, eh? Should be fun to watch....

  17. Reimer and Scrivens compliment each other well. Each is capable of excelling when the defensive game is functioning well. I agree with the general tenets of comments today -- Reimer has been showing slight regression, the team save percentage is down, owing to weaker defensive play and Nonis' comment that the goaltending is strong enough to move forward with.

    I especially find the two keepers' styles complimentary. Reimer has a very conventional style, with more puck freezing and transition close to or behind the net. Scrivens is more cerebral, his penchant for innovation evinced by his freaky inverted glove position, but especially his use of controlled rebounds for rapid transition well beyond the crease.

    I find that a string of losses will bring out the unsophisticated fans blaming goalies for weak team play and generally lowers the level of discourse in the Maple Ether. Hopefully, the team will find its groove again. To the exteent that you can tune out the irrational exuberance, wins tend to keep the unsophisticated Leaf fans at bay.

  18. You understand the position Bobby C. and your comments are most welcome.

    It's always good to hear calm and thoughtful voices in Leafland. Thanks Bobby.

  19. Yes, Bobby C. hit the unique linguistic chord again today, Gerund!

  20. Carlyle's mindset (and I don't know about Nonis') doesn't recognize that a player is an asset. Viewing a player as a means to a short-term end (i.e. winning tomorrow's game) is, well, short-term. Part of being a coach is maximizing the player's value, aiding in their development, taking a slightly longer view. This Darwinian win 'til you lose thing is destructive of confidence and creates needless pressure - the important word being "needless". Does anybody really feel a guy like James Reimer needs to be kicked in the pants to try his best? Do we feel that pressure to stop the puck will help him stop the puck? Anybody who has played sports at a decent level knows that when you're in the zone, performing up to your potential, your mind is clear, quiet and focused - Carlyle's mindgames produce quite the opposite effect.

  21. I'm trying to recall if you have commented here before, Mike. If so, It's perhaps been a while. Regardless, welcome and thank you for posting.

    I'm sensing you've played the game at a high level. I can't pretend to be in Carlyle's 'head space", but yes, from an outside perspective, I acknowledge his view appears to be "short arm" as in- we need to win...tonight.

    You may have identified one of the reasons I'd like Reimer to have "the job". Is he markedly superior to Scrivens, for example? I don't know. Though I've been following this sport for well over 50 years and have seen some of the best-ever play, often in person (and have worked professionally, in my field, with some NHL goalies), I'm not expert enough to make too many pronouncements about goaltenders and what makes one "better" than another.. I just see what I see.

    But I believe Reimer has, as you indicate, been through a lot these past few years. He has fought injuries, had his job taken away, and yet he continues to bounce back and work even harder than before.

    That he has mechanical flaws puts him in the same league as probably 100% of goalies. Even those with supposedly flawless mechanics "lose" those mechanics at times. It can be mechanical. it can be mental. It can be fragile confidence. Whatever. All goalies look fantastic when they are "in the zone" and on their game. It's only the very best who can maintain that level of play on a pretty consistent basis year after year.

    I just think Reimer should be the guy. I respect that others disagree. Goalies are "different" and most established goalies don't have to keep proving themselves. They keep getting sent out there, and the team rises and falls with them. It would appear Carlyle does not feel Reimer has 'earned' that kind of support and trust yet. I'm not a coach, so I can't debate it much, I guess.

    Thanks Mike.