Leafs Trade Deadline 2012: Should Getting a Starting Goalie Be a Priority?

Brad LeClairCorrespondent IFebruary 12, 2012

TORONTO, CANADA - FEBRUARY 11:  Lars Eller #81 of the Montreal Canadiens gets set to cut in front of James Reimer #34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs and score in a game on February 11, 2012 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Canada. The Canadiens defeated the Leafs 5-0. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Claus Andersen/Getty Images

Whether it's this season or next, the biggest need now for the Leafs appears to be a starting goaltender. Getting consistent, solid goaltending this season and in seasons past has been a battle to say the least.

James Reimer burst onto the scene last season and looked impenetrable, however Reimer hasn't been the same after catching an errant elbow from Habs forward Brian Gionta, He has his good days, he'll have his bad days.

Jonas Gustavsson has been the more sure bet this year despite a slow start. Whether he has the mental toughness to be a starting goaltender is his biggest question mark. Gustavsson has a bad habit of allowing soft goals in bunches, a habit Reimer seems to be absorbing.

Ever since the lockout the Leafs have struggled to make the playoffs. The common facet of each team was a lack of a quality starting goaltender.

Not since the days of Curtis Joseph, Ed Belfour and even Felix Potvin have the Leafs made the playoffs and enjoyed some success while there.

Despite some pretty atrocious teams (that played awful defenses) that included the likes of Jyrki Lumme in the twilight of his career, Cory Cross, Aki Berg, Alex Khavanov, Ken Klee and many others, these teams managed to make the playoffs.

For years, Mats Sundin never had any linemates to play with. If Mats was 10 years younger and playing with Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul, the possibilities seem to be endless.

Anyways, enough of focusing on the past—I'll focus on the now.

The now is simply the Leafs are giving up far too many goals, and to be honest, they shouldn't be.

With a defense that goes nearly eight deep, the talent level of the team is likely the highest it's ever been since the 2003-04 season when the Leafs last made the playoffs.

The one area nearly all playoff teams are strong in is goaltending. Boston has Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask, the Rangers have King Henrik, the Flyers have Ilya Bryzgalov (whom should have better numbers), the Penguins have Marc Andre Fleury, the Devils have Martin Brodeur, the Senators have Craig Anderson, the Capitals have Tomas Vokoun and the Panthers have Jose Theodore and Jakub Markstrom waiting in the wings.

Moving west, the Red Wings have Jimmy Howard,the Canucks have Roberto Luongo, the Sharks have Antti Niemi, the Blues have Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott, Nashville has Pekka Rinne, the Hawks (the other team in the playoffs with too many goals against) have Corey Crawford and Ray Emery, the Kings have Jon Quick and Jon Bernier, Phoenix has Mike Smith and Calgary has Miikka Kiprusoff.

You see the common trait with nearly all these playoff teams? A quality goaltender who makes timely stops and gives his team a chance to win nightly.

Maybe this trade deadline Burke should be focusing more on acquiring that goaltender rather than yet another forward who the team may or may not need.

The likes of Cam Ward, Ryan Miller and Jonas Hiller may all be available. If I was GM Brian Burke, I'd be investigating the goalie market closely hoping that maybe, just maybe, the Leafs can return back to their pre-lockout form of having stellar goaltending, solid forwards and a mediocre defense.

Any thoughts on who the Leafs could go after, and what moves could make sense for the team moving forward.