Toronto Maple Leafs' Goaltending Problem Is a Good One

Bleacher ReportAnalyst IJanuary 14, 2011

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 13:  GoaltenderJames Reimer #34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs prepares himself before the NHL game against the Phoenix Coyotes at Arena on January 13, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona.   The Coyotes defeated the Maple Leafs 5-1.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Please note: this article was written before the Maple Leafs sent James Reimer back to the AHL.

A large part of the Toronto Maple Leafs' recent success has been their strong goaltending. With five consecutive stellar starts from James Reimer and a less-than-average one last night against Phoenix, the Maple Leafs have managed to win five of their last seven.

In seven games this season, Reimer has a record of 4-2-0, a goals against average of 2.26 and a save percentage of .933. In six starts, Reimer has stopped less than 30 shots in a game only once.

"It's his poise in net I think that strikes everybody," said Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke during the first intermission of the team's 5-1 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday night. "You wouldn't know it's his first half-dozen games in the National Hockey League.

"He looks relaxed, he looks calm, I think our defence feeds off that...and he's a thick body kid," Burke continued.

Burke obviously thinks very highly of Reimer, as he should. But should he consider talking to head coach Ron Wilson about giving Jonas Gustavsson and Jean-Sebastien Giguere some more playing time?

Gustavsson, 26, has been shaky this season; so much so that he would only be considered as a good backup goalie. With just six wins, a goals against average of 3.13 and a save percentage of .896 in 22 games this season, Gustavsson certainly hasn't been what you would call starter material.

Giguere, who backed up Reimer last night for Toronto after missing a good amount of time due to injury, has also been shaky this season, but has a rather hefty salary of $6 million. His 2.80 goals against average and .894 certainly doesn't catch anyone's eye.

There is no question the log jam the Maple Leafs currently have in net is a good problem to have, but Giguere's salary makes the problem that much more difficult to settle. Of course, there is always the option of trading him...surely there must be a team looking for a veteran goalie to help mount a successful playoff run.

The problem with that, however, is his no-trade clause. The clause gives him complete control over where he goes, making it difficult for the Maple Leafs to trade him. One would have to think that even if he was traded, the return wouldn't be very good.

Gustavsson, meanwhile, would be much easier to move at a $1.35 million cap hit. His age and potential also make him appealing to other teams, especially those in small markets struggling to make the playoffs.

Remember, though, Jussi Rynnas (23 games played, 2.66 goals against average, .915 save percentage in the AHL this season) is awaiting his chance with the Maple Leafs. Trading either Gustavsson or Giguere would open up a spot for Reimer to stay, but Rynnas would still be waiting.

Perhaps that is a good thing though, as keeping one of Gustavsson or Giguere would allow Rynnas more time to hone his skills in the American League.

Only time will tell what the Maple Leafs decide to do and what the right decision is. For now, though, it appears as though they should stick with the hot hand: James Reimer.

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