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Is Burke really going to roll the dice with Reimer again?

Jul 11, 2012, 4:03 PM EDT

James Reimer AP

What follows is the list of goalies that have played at least a game for the Toronto Maple Leafs since the 2004-05 lockout:

Jean-Sebastien Aubin, Mikael Tellqvist, Ed Belfour, Andrew Raycroft, Vesa Toskala, Scott Clemmensen, Martin Gerber, Curtis Joseph, Justin Pogge, Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Jonas Gustavsson, Joey MacDonald, James Reimer, Ben Scrivens, and Jussi Rynnas.

Not one was able to help the Leafs to the playoffs.

Last season, general manager Brian Burke rolled the dice on a pair of youngsters, Reimer and Gustavsson, who had started a combined 95 NHL games.

Prior to the season, Reimer was deemed the No. 1 based on an impressive 2010-11 rookie campaign in which he went 20-10-5 with a .921 save percentage in 37 appearances.

Yada, yada, yada, the Leafs missed the playoffs for the seventh straight season, this time after collapsing down the stretch in spectacular fashion. And while the goaltending wasn’t entirely to blame, it didn’t help any either.

“We’ve got two young kids in the net,” Leafs goalie coach Francois Allaire said mid-collapse. “Not a lot of experience. Nobody has more than 90 games in the NHL. So that’s normal and we’re right in the middle of [the playoff race].

“We’ll see if we’re strong enough to get through.”

Ultimately, they weren’t strong enough. Toronto finished 13th in the Eastern Conference, 12 points back of a playoff spot.

Yet here we are on July 11 and Burke still hasn’t done anything to address his team’s goaltending (unless trading Gustavsson is considered something.) As it stands, Reimer, 24, and Ben Scrivens – an undrafted 25-year-old that was in the ECHL for part of the 2010-11 season – are the Leafs’ top two goalies. Combined, the pair has 80 NHL starts under their belts.

Burke says he’s “prepared to go forward” with those two – an enormous risk given the fact many expect he’ll be fired should the Leafs fail to make the playoffs again — but at this point, his options are severely limited.

He couldn’t, or didn’t try to, sign free agents Tomas Vokoun, Josh Harding, or Clemmensen.

He inquired about Martin Brodeur before the latter re-upped with the Devils.

Roberto Luongo is still technically on the Canucks, but so far Burke’s balked at Vancouver’s asking price.

“From my perspective, the prices that are being asked have to be reasonable,” Burke said. “If you can get a goaltender who makes you better, and it costs you 15 first-round picks, would you do it? No.

“So somewhere between 15 first-round picks and something that makes sense, we’re not there yet. I’m not going to overpay to upgrade at that position. I’m not happy with what’s being asked. From my perspective, rather than strip your organization to fill one positional need, we’ll go with what we have.”

Of course, even if he were willing to pay the price, it’s not clear whether Luongo would accept a trade to Toronto.

So, what’s left? The UFA cupboard is bare. Minnesota GM Chuck Fletcher has said he’s not interested in trading Niklas Backstrom. Tim Thomas is taking the year off.

There’s no reason to believe Reimer can’t be a good NHL starter. However, is it smart to put everything on his shoulders again?

Perhaps more importantly, is it fair?

  1. mclovinhockey - Jul 11, 2012 at 4:12 PM

    What do you want them to do, go after Huet? Make an offer to Hasek since he wants to come back? There isn’t much goalies on the market and there are lots of teams who want them. Here comes the 8th season in a row without the playoffs.

    • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Jul 11, 2012 at 4:20 PM

      Agreed. The goalie market sucks this year, Burke’s hands are tied. I wouldn’t want him to give up a ton of young players for a goalie who’s past his prime even if he is an All Star.

    • jrsaffell - Jul 11, 2012 at 4:27 PM

      There are no options for this team other than getting the defense better in front of the goalies. Gus, Reimer and Scrivens all played great last year in spurts, Gus had a great run in net before the whole team tanked but in that run he had to stand on his head every game. The defense was terrible all year and the PK only looked good in the second half because the team didn’t take any penalties.

      Don’t worry about the goalies, just get 2 more responsible D-Men. Schenn, Phaneuf, Aulie and Komisarek were all liabilities for much of the year when they played, 2 of them are gone now. Get Franson, Liles, Gunnarsson and Gardiner all on the same page while simultaneously pulling the Captain’s head out of his butt and get 2 guys that can round out the group with some DISCIPLINED GRIT.

    • elvispocomo - Jul 11, 2012 at 5:23 PM

      Until team stop being willing to offer $60-100M 10 year type deals, the argument about there not being much in the goalie market is a little misleading. There aren’t a lot of UFAs left, but that’s hardly the only market.

      Burke obviously exaggerated the 15 first-round picks but he has to be willing to give to get. The price won’t get any better the longer he waits: more UFAs will be signed and more teams will find what they have isn’t good enough by the 30-40 game mark. The price for good goalies that are available via trade will only get worse in that scenario.

      A number of teams appear ready to gamble as they either couldn’t or wouldn’t find replacements that would obviously improve their goaltending this year. Tampa’s made some moves but are unproven, Washington is hoping two young goalies can do that job, Florida is hanging on to a steady tandem being enough, and Columbus is thinking it’s all been a mirage for Mason. Even Philly and Pittsburgh were left wanting last year and are hoping this year doesn’t repeat.

      We’ll see what happens as we get closer to August, and beyond that, into December and January for what GMs will be willing to pay to keep their jobs.

    • moosehse - Jul 13, 2012 at 2:50 AM

      There were definite problems in the net last season not to mention injuries.

      So there is an issue – and a BIG ONE – in defence of the goal tending last year – and that is the defensive system was absolutely deplorable last season. That was down to the belief it would seem that the offensive unit needn’t necessarily defend but rather outscore the opposition.

      Well that back-fired and fortunately, the main guy behind that little trip to OZ got relieved of his duties leaving the team in somewhat of a disarray – as we witnessed with the burnout.

      There is no question that It is granted, a big risk putting the the lambs out in the forest with the wolves, however with the defence getting it’s act together and the forwards made to become more responsible defensively they could (bring in Lady LUck please) pull it off. We can’t rule out the possibility of this scenario.

      Ha! ….And I know, I mention OZ earlier

      So, there is a lot on Randy Carlyle’s table to get a real defensive system in place so that it will give the young goalies at least a chance to develop.

      So if the cupboard is bare on the experienced goalies available…………… GOOD LUCK REIMER AND RANDY CARLYLE.

  2. lostpuppysyndrome - Jul 11, 2012 at 4:31 PM

    Jake Gardiner and Matt Frattin for Niklas Backstrom. Why not just continue Fletcher’s quest of making an all WCHA/Finnish NHL team?

    • jrsaffell - Jul 11, 2012 at 4:33 PM

      Gardiner and Kessel may be the only players Burke wouldn’t trade under any circumstance. Frattin will be starting on the third line, possibly second if Clarke continues his woes.

      • lostpuppysyndrome - Jul 11, 2012 at 4:39 PM

        Hmmm…Blacker and Frattin and a 5th rd pick?

      • moosehse - Jul 13, 2012 at 3:12 AM

        It’s too bad about MacArthur as he showed great promise – in fact the whole line showed great promise the year before last. Something really went wonky with the chemistry there.

        Last season, MacArthur got of to a bad start with the suspension and injuries from which he never seemed to recover to the previous seasons level of play.

        On top of that Kulemin’s game went hugely flat as well. If the management says he goes as part of a trade, that’s the way it goes. But this year he could snap out of it and it would be a pity to loose him.

        The truth is I may be being too nostalgic – remembering how great it was to see the way that line clicked so well.

    • jrsaffell - Jul 11, 2012 at 4:44 PM

      Sure, but only if you eat Komisarek’s contract with that one too!

      • lostpuppysyndrome - Jul 11, 2012 at 4:45 PM

        No dice, broski. Need the cap space.

    • puckhead1966 - Jul 11, 2012 at 5:12 PM

      Hmmm…Blacker and Frattin and a 5th rd pick, plus Komi for Lui and his giant contract a second and third spread out over 2 drafts and we’ll take a contract back, maybe MALHOTRA or Hanson or Raymond.You could sub Scrivins for the draft picks. We take back 7-8 million, Van takes Komi’s 4.5,Frattin’s 875k and Scrivins needs to be signed 750-100,000, blacker likely needs another yr of seasoning.

      • elvispocomo - Jul 11, 2012 at 5:32 PM

        No way a Komi for Lui deal happens, that’s wishful thinking on the Leafs part. It’d be one thing if neither were deserving of their cap hit right now, but Luongo still is a good goalie for his price. The only thing Komisarek has going for him is only one less goal than Gomez and his too-high cap hit is up in two years.

        Saying a 2nd and 3rd over the next two drafts to take a contract back over and above the Komi/Lui part of the deal isn’t exactly enticing when they’re only $2-2.5M cap hits at most. Fratting and Blacker are ok, but the Nucks would rather keep Luongo than have to eat a contract coming back yet get little incentive otherwise.

    • puckhead1966 - Jul 11, 2012 at 5:17 PM

      None of those players are Finns. Backstrom is a Sweede.

      • lostpuppysyndrome - Jul 11, 2012 at 5:20 PM


      • mnhockey24 - Jul 11, 2012 at 11:22 PM

        wow thats all i have to say is wow backs played for team finland in the olympics you tard the other backstrom is a sweed you know the center that plays for the caps

  3. porkcrisp - Jul 11, 2012 at 4:45 PM

    While the GM in Vancouver, Burke’s downfall was that he refused to bring in a proven goaltender. The Canucks were stuck with Dan Cloutier for years. Now he refuses to upgrade the goaltending in Toronto.

    This appears to be his Achilles heel.

    Luckily for Anaheim, Bryan Murray already had Giguere and Bryzgalov on the roster before Burke took over.

    • puckhead1966 - Jul 11, 2012 at 5:15 PM

      Yep, and he waived Bryzgalov to Phoenix for nothing.

    • elvispocomo - Jul 11, 2012 at 5:34 PM

      No wonder he coined the term goalie graveyard. At least in Anaheim he was handed JSG on a silver platter.

  4. cloudniner9 - Jul 11, 2012 at 4:55 PM

    Not a surprise the leafs will never spend money to get better, why because they don’t have too, they sell every home ticket and make tons of money every year so they dont need to win anything. Until they get an owner that really wants to win or their fans stay away they will remain in the basement of the league.

    • puckhead1966 - Jul 11, 2012 at 5:03 PM

      What are you talking about? The Leafs spend almost to the cap every year, they 11 mil now but only 19 signed. I think they had a million in space at the end of last yr. Do you know any million dollar players that would have dragged TO into the playoffs?

    • Jason Brough - Jul 11, 2012 at 5:34 PM

      A popular theory, but I don’t buy it for a second. Do you think Leafs ownership is content to miss out on postseason revenue? Just one game’s gate in the playoffs would be worth around $2 million. A deep run and they book record profits.

  5. mydadyourmom - Jul 11, 2012 at 5:58 PM

    Leafs are balls.

  6. leafs2013 - Jul 11, 2012 at 6:32 PM

    Trade Kessel!!! i know its bad to say since he had cancer but the guy is a cancer!

    • jrsaffell - Jul 11, 2012 at 7:18 PM

      Yeah…. trade the best player on the team who made Lupul better for what…. Rick Nash? Who out there that is even remotely available would bring more to the team.

      This is what I’m talking about when I say Leaf fans are clueless. They think they can just go out and get whatever team they want and that the current players are the problem.

      Kessel performed all year, almost every game except when Chara was pounding his face into the ice because no one on the team would step up to defend him.

      The only cancer on the team is Phaneuf, he’s being paid too much and if he took a 2 million dollar pay cut and took the C off his sweater then he could stay. He doesn’t rate the pay or the recognition. The rest of the cancers on the team are all salary related. And Burke knows it.

      That’s why Colby Armstrong is GONE. That’s why Komisarek would be gone if they could dump him.

      The proof that Kessel doesn’t suck is that there are plenty of teams that want him. Burke can’t make trades because the only two players that anyone is dying to have from the Leafs are Gardiner and Kessel. Crappy players don’t get interest like that.

  7. rekingcrew - Jul 11, 2012 at 7:33 PM

    I can’t imagine any GM giving up more than a bag of pucks for Loungo. Gillis better drop his asking price. This guy would rejuvenate the print business on TO tho. Maybe a bag of nice pucks then.

    • blomfeld - Jul 11, 2012 at 11:24 PM


      When you’re making money the way “Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment” is, there’s absolutely no need to go out on a limb for your customers … the fools will come regardless. The Maple Leafs are “by far” the wealthiest team in the NHL today and there’s a “reason” why the GTO has but one team. This is about maximizing profit, not giving happiness and hope to your people. Do you think that chairman Larry Tanenbaum (ie: Larry “Christmas Tree”) gives a rat’s ass about the Leafs’ current cup drought dating back to ’67 ? … or that the legacy of this “storied” franchise, which has attained more Stanley Cup Championships (13) than anyone else save the Montreal Canadiens (24) is today being irreparably damaged ? … of course not ! These people like Larry “Christmas Tree” and others only care about money and personal gain … not the betterment and happiness of their people. I can therefore see their “pitchman” Burke doing positively nothing in terms of a goalie and the team continuing to flounder … just as long as the “fools” keep coming back and opening their wallets …

      • ray2013 - Jul 12, 2012 at 4:08 AM

        I don’t think that people really appreciate how the recent ownership change could potentially impact the team’s management. Under the Teachers’ Fund, it seemed like it didn’t matter how badly management bungled the Leafs and Raptors. As long as they made money, the Teachers’ Fund really didn’t say much or do much.

        But since Bell & Rogers now own the Leafs and Raptors, we’re already seeing a shift in the way the teams are being managed. Someone above was mentioning that the Leafs could make $2 million a game in the playoffs were they to make it. I think that’s underselling the potential financial windfall of a successful Leafs team. Rogers & Bell operate Canada’s two main sports networks (TSN & Sportsnet). Bell also owns CTV, one of Canada’s major television networks (and they show a lot of sports as well). I’m not a media business expert, but I would guess that both networks would do considerably better business if the Leafs and Raptors were contending teams, both at the gate, and from commercials and advertising on their respective networks.

        On the Raptor side, we already saw them offer Steve Nash a three-year, $36 million contract offer to sign with the Raptors. I don’t think Burke has much of a leash, and I’d wager that if the Leafs start off poorly, he’s the first GM fired.

      • ray2013 - Jul 12, 2012 at 4:12 AM

        Nash might have said no, but when have we ever seen the Raptors go after a free-agent like that? Never, as far as I can remember.

        It doesn’t take a genius to figure out Bell & Rogers will be much happier as soon as the Leafs are contending. It means more money for them all the way around.

  8. lucicfan603 - Jul 11, 2012 at 10:54 PM

    As much as I don’t like the leafs, I have to say that I liked watching cujo back in the day in net for them. If your not willing to take any chances and play it safe you’ll never going to win

  9. dambuster1992 - Jul 12, 2012 at 3:57 PM

    I gotta agree with a few of the comments on here, in that goal tending was not the major problem last year. Yea, it was a little shoddy at times, but the main problem was defense, or should I say the lack of it. I think given the chance, and the right level of support and protection, I think Reimer will do fine, but he needs to have someone standing up and protecting him. You never saw Quick, Brodeur or Schneider getting abandoned on a regular basis like Reimer and Gustavsson were. I could be wrong, but the line in front of the goalies was the real problem, not the goalies.

  10. ct14flyers - Jul 12, 2012 at 4:54 PM

    The Flyers will give you Bryz, Leighton, Ron Hextall, and Robert Eshe for Kessel and Dion. We will just bring back Boucher. No big deal.

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