Leafs Talk: Will Leafs Regret Not Landing a Goaltender at the Deadline?
After a long four-day break, the Toronto Maple Leafs began the post-deadline period of the 2013 season rather sloppily.
The Leafs welcomed the Philadelphia Flyers to town, and the Flyers ended up handing the Leafs a large slice of humble pie, winning the game 5-3.
The Flyers, minus two-thirds of their regular blueliners and a solid veteran center in Daniel Briere, played a strong game of hockey against the Leafs Thursday night. They came out with energy, tenacity and managed to win the game on the second outing of a tough back-to-back.
The previous night, the Flyers came back from down two and won 5-3 over the Montreal Canadiens. They used their size, skill and ability to intimidate, as they handed the Habs a loss.
The next night was a whole different can of worms, though. The Flyers, for the most part, played a decent game, but it was a winnable game for the Leafs that was spoiled by a slew of turnovers. It begged the question, were the Leafs regretting not going after and landing that No. 1 goalie they have forever lacked?
Simple answer is absolutely not. Blaming James Reimer for that horror show on Thursday night is not only a quick out, but it's entirely unfair.
If it wasn't for some of Reimer's huge saves, the Leafs probably would have lost the game by plenty more than just two goals. It was the lack of basic awareness and hockey fundamentals that got the Leafs hurt, literally.
For a longer answer, read the following.
Defenseman Mike Kostka, whose job was already hanging in the balance, didn't do himself any favors by coughing the puck up repeatedly. On the first goal to Simon Gagne, he turned the puck over and let his man go to the net instead of pinning him. That man was Gagne, who ended up tipping a point shot home for the first goal.
Next, Kostka got a penalty for checking Flyers star Claude Giroux from behind after he turned the puck over yet again. Making the simple play isn't in Kostka's vocabulary it seems.
On the deciding marker—Philly's fourth—Kostka turned the puck over yet again. The shot got through a screened and interfered Reimer, who was irate after the missed call on Flyers forward Adam Hall.
Not to only pick on Kostka, Leafs two-way forward Nikolai Kulemin had a horrific turnover in the defensive zone, as he performed the cardinal sin of trying to make a blind backhand pass through the middle of the ice. It was easily picked off by Flyers forward Brayden Schenn and the puck was deposited home. Reimer got a piece of it, but not enough. That resulted in the Flyers' third goal.
Needless to say, the Leafs didn't do Reimer any favors in that game. After losing Joffrey Lupul to an upper-body injury following a Flyers sandwich courtesy of fourth-liners Hall and former Leaf Jay Rosehill, the energy was sucked out of the team and the Air Canada Center.
It wasn't until James van Riemsdyk finished off a wonderful in-tight move on goalie Ilya Bryzgalov that the energy returned to the team.
Despite the boost the team received from JVR's goal, the Leafs looked like they hadn't played hockey in a while, and it showed.
With recently acquired defenceman Ryan O'Byrne ready to suit up Saturday against the New Jersey Devils, the Leafs will have a new look to their back end—hopefully a better puck-managing look to their back end at that.
With the uncertainty surrounding Lupul and his "upper body," the Leafs will likely need their top line to get offense generated quickly.
So after that long and drawn-out answer, Leaf fans I hope will say no to whether or not the team needed to acquire a goaltender at the deadline.
To be quite honest, the quality and term available weren't there. Roberto Luongo was there, but his contract is too long. Miikka Kiprusoff was there, but his head just isn't in the game of hockey anymore.
Ben Bishop was available, but I severely doubt the Senators would've traded to a division rival. Furthermore, Bishop isn't a veteran. Ryan Miller was there, but the Sabres probably weren't willing to trade to a division rival, either.
The best available option for the Leafs was likely Jonathan Bernier, but he's also a restricted free agent at the end of the season and could've been in for a large payday had he got the gig as No. 1 goalie on the Leafs.
They are better off waiting until the offseason to make a move for a goaltender.
The moves the Leafs needed to make at the deadline were to add another top-four defenceman and likely a top-six player to help spread the offence out more.
The Leafs ended up adding depth defenceman Ryan O'Byrne and that was all that could be said for deadline day. O'Byrne is a decent defensive defenceman, but he is not a great puck-mover.
Judging by the amount of turnovers this team commits on its back end, adding O'Byrne to the fold will likely not help in that department. Moreover, he might escalate the issue.
Were the Leafs winners or losers on deadline day? Easy answer for me is they were neutral. In other words, the day ended in a draw.
They needed a forward, they needed a defenceman, they could have used a goalie (well, that's still up for debate).
What they did was add a depth defenceman. They didn't touch the high-scoring forwards and they didn't risk the future to bring in a goalie who may or may not have been a better option over Reimer.
Another year, another wasted deadline in terms of hype surrounding the Leafs. They made a move, but it was minor. I just hope they don't fall off the trolley tracks and derail this wonderful season like they did the season previous.
Here's hoping this edition of the Leafs can finally get back to the playoffs.
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