Toronto Maple Leafs: Politics of the Crease

Matt Wiseman@HockeyWiseCorrespondent IIIFebruary 2, 2011

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 13:  Goaltender James Reimer #34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs 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

Three's a crowd in Leafs Nation. With all those names between the pipes earning your starts may not be enough.

The unofficial second half of the Toronto Maple Leafs season started off on the right track with a shootout victory over the Florida Panthers. Jean-Sebastien Giguere earned the victory to push his season record to one game over .500 at 10-9-3.

Backing up Giguere was the pleasantly surprising James Reimer, who has arguably been the Leafs most consistent player between the pipes. Although, that assessment may be a bit premature considering that he has played in considerably fewer games with an overall record of 4-3-0.

Ron Wilson chose to go with Reimer as the backup to Giguere because both the team and coaching staff have found an overwhelming confidence in his game that has resonated out of his strong play. Even Leafs Nation has become excited about their young net minder, dubbing him “Optimus Reim,” as a result of his successful play thus far.

If this is the case, why was Giguere in net rather than Reimer? Well, for a few reasons.

First, Giguere is a Stanley Cup winner and has developed a solid veteran rapport with his teammates. His positive leadership go hand-in-hand with his ability to play well in the majority of starts; I buy that.

However, I do not buy the argument that Giguere playing in net provides the Maple Leafs with their best chance to win game in and game out. That title in my estimation currently belongs to Reimer.

Granted, Reimer has not played nearly enough for his goaltending abilities to be fully accessed. But Reimer has showed poise, athleticism and a competitive nature to go along with excellent results. Numbers don’t lie; in seven games Reimer has a 2.24 goals against average and a .933 save percentage. These stats put him above Giguere who thus far has posted a 2.82 GAA to go along with a .896 SV percentage.

Unfortunately for Reimer, politics often trump statistics in the business of hockey.

The real reason Giguere got the starting nod against the Panthers is the same reason that he will continue to get playing time over Reimer. The NHL trade deadline is fast approaching and Maple Leafs management has yet to decide if they are going to bring Giguere back for another season.

In that regard, February is not a tryout for the veteran goalie in the sense that the Leafs need to assess his capabilities. The Leafs are well aware of a player that they have in Giguere. But make no mistake, the Leafs intend for his abilities to be accessed, just by other teams.

The Leafs intend to use the next few weeks prior to the trade deadline to showcase Giguere to contending teams who may be in the market for a Stanley Cup winning goalie. If Giguere can string together a nice stretch of games it could prove substantially beneficial to the Leafs, as well as to his immediate future.

The Leafs could trade Giguere before or at the deadline for a decent return, and Giguere would have earned himself the opportunity to play for a contending team down the stretch and in the playoffs. This scenario would only increase Giguere’s chances of signing a new deal in the summer when he hits the free agent waters on July 1.

A win-win for both the Leafs and Giguere, that is of course, if he can keep winning. Unfortunately, this scenario does not bode well for Reimer, but at least he’s earned a bench spot for the foreseeable future.

Unlike the Leafs third net Monster... sorry, net minder!

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