Going into the offseason, everyone knew that the Toronto Maple Leafs biggest need was a more experienced goaltender. Whatever Brian Burke needed to do acquire one, the fans probably would have agreed with whatever the Leafs gave up.
Any name that has been thrown around as being available, be it free agents or by trade, has been connected to the Leafs at some point or another. Roberto Luongo, Tim Thomas, Jonathan Bernier, Josh Harding, Jaroslav Halak, Miikka Kiprusoff and the list goes on. However, the Leafs have been unable to acquire any one of them.
That means when the season begins, whenever that might be, that the Leafs will be going with the tandem of starter James Reimer and backup Ben Scrivens. While they do have potential, we know from last year that going with a young, inexperienced tandem isn’t exactly a recipe for success.
While the Maple Leafs have improved their offense with the acquisition of James van Riemsdyk and the defense should improve with another year of development, the goaltending could potentially bring it all down.
Here are four reasons why the Maple Leafs goaltending tandem could make for a long season.
Who knows how the Maple Leafs would have done last season had James Reimer not got hurt five games into the season. After a great half-season in 2010-11, Reimer had a very disappointing 2012-13 because of that injury.
Missing more than half the season, he clearly wasn’t himself when he returned, winning only 10 more games out of the 29 he played after coming back. Given, it will be a full year since he suffered the injury in October so hopefully he will be over it and he can get the Leafs off to a good start. If not, it could only be the start of bad things to come for the Leafs.
If James Reimer falters, Ben Scrivens will be called upon to take the starting job and run with it. In 12 games with the Leafs last season, he didn’t look out of place, finishing with a 4-5-2 record. He then was the biggest force in the Toronto Marlies run to the Calder Cup Finals in the AHL.
If he can do the same thing for the Maple Leafs it would be great, but that is highly unlikely. It is rare for a rookie goaltender to play really well, and we’ve already had that scenario happen with Reimer. The odds of Scrivens taking the reins based on talent are slim to none.
Everyone knows that the Leafs have some good depth in young goaltenders. The question is whether that depth is ready to step in if James Reimer and Ben Scrivens go out with injuries.
Jussi Rynnas and Mark Owuya are the third and fourth goaltenders on the Leafs and it will take a few years for either to be ready for everyday NHL duty. Rynnas played in one game this season but that is obviously too small of a sample size to tell if he is ready. Owuya needs to become the everyday goalie of the Marlies before he can be even suggested as an option.
This might be the only way that Brian Burke would pay top dollar for Luongo.
An inexperienced tandem of goalies means that you must have a good defensive core in front of them. Even if James Reimer and Ben Scrivens stand on their head and amaze everyone, a defensive pair letting player after player skate through them will break the goalies down. Dion Phaneuf, John-Michael Liles, Jake Gardiner and company have to play better defensively if Reimer and Scrivens are to even have a chance.
It is quite clear that with James Reimer and Ben Scrivens in net, the Toronto Maple Leafs are in for a long season. While Leaf fans will have many nights when they’re biting their nails, if one or both of Reimer and Scrivens can over-achieve, the Leafs could be in a position to break their playoff drought.
It will take a total team effort, but if Reimer and Scrivens can do their part, the end of the long road that they will be traveling might lead to the playoffs.