Toronto Maple Leafs: With Reimer Stumbling, Is a New Goalie Controversy Brewing?

Curtis NgContributor IIIDecember 28, 2011

SUNRISE, FL - DECEMBER 27: Bill Thomas #29 of the Florida Panthers scores a goal past goaltender James Reimer #34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs during second period action on December 27, 2011 at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Florida. The Panthers defeated the Maple Leafs 5-3. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

Since his return on December 3rd against the Boston Bruins, James Reimer has been average at best.

Coming into the game against the Florida Panthers on the 27th, Reimer had just three wins and five losses in the games following his return from injury. After giving up three goals (including a softie and another he should've had) on eight shots, Reimer was tossed in favour of Jonas Gustavsson, who played admirably.

The Leafs lost 5-3, so Gustavsson was unfortunately credited with an loss despite playing far better than Reimer.

In fact, one could argue that Gustavsson has been the better goalie for many weeks now.

When Reimer was out with his "upper-body" injury, Gustavsson and Ben Scrivens shared the workload. The first goalie controversy of the season occurred when it appeared Scrivens was outperforming Gustavsson.

At one point, some wondered if Scrivens had a chance of swapping places with Gustavsson on the Leafs' goalie depth chart.

After the hype surrounding Scrivens died down, that controversy was put to rest.

Reimer returned, and it appeared that the Leafs had their legitimate No. 1 back.

However, Reimer has underwhelmed since coming back. Gone is the memory of the 4-0-1 start; Reimer is now 7-3-3-1 on the season with an unimpressive .901 save percentage and a 2.94 goals-against average.

By comparison, Gustavsson is 9-7-0-0 with an .898 save percentage and a 3.28 GAA.

The numbers, of course, don't tell the whole story.

Reimer is obviously meant to be the Leafs' starting goaltender, but right now, he is being outplayed by Gustavsson.

The coaching staff should realize this and let Gustavsson play until he slips.

There is a lot more love for Reimer in Toronto than there is for Gustavsson, but that is no reason to continue starting him given his play of late.

In the game against the Panthers, Gustavsson looked sharp. He was the only reason the Leafs didn't get blown out, as they looked awful for the first 40 minutes.

His vision has been good; his rebound control is better than Reimer's at this point; he's quicker to the puck, and he's not caught out of position as often as Reimer is.

For fans, it often comes down to gut feelings in terms of which players they like or prefer at any given time.

Right now, Jonas Gustavsson feels like the safer bet in net for the Leafs.