A shutout victory should act as a cause for celebration for a Maple Leafs organization that is in need of wins, but if James Reimer continues his stellar play Brian Burke will be forced to make an important goal tending decision sooner, rather than later.
The management of the Toronto Maple Leafs temporarily fixed the issue regarding the crowded crease by announcing on Friday that goaltender Jonas Gustavsson had agreed to be loaned to the Toronto Marlies of the AHL for a 14 day conditioning stint.
I recently wrote an article titled “Politics of the Crease,” in which I proposed that Jean-Sebastien Giguere would get the majority of starts prior to the NHL trade deadline on Feb. 28.
The reason for my argument was simple; the Leafs intend to showcase the veteran net minder in hopes of garnering attention from contending teams for trade purposes.
In asserting my argument it became abundantly clear that one of the remaining two goalies on the Leafs roster, Gustavsson or Reimer, would have to be sent down to the Marlies until a time when Giguere is traded, if that were to eventually happen.
The Maple Leafs are currently in a very peculiar situation as they have three games in hand on the eighth place Atlanta Thrashers. Hypothetically, if the Leafs were to win three straight games they could find themselves only four points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
This, of course, assumes Atlanta will keep losing.
Granted, this hypothetical situation comes with a lot of ‘ifs’.
The point is that the Leafs still have a slim chance of making the playoffs, which means that they are currently in a playoff run.
Ergo, wins are a must in Leafs Nation.
The ongoing success of James Reimer has already forced the hand of Leafs management. Burke chose to send down Gustavsson, instead of Reimer for obvious reasons. Gustavsson has appeared inconsistent in 23 games for the Leafs this season.
With an overall record of 6-13-2, he has posted a 3.29 GAA and .890 save percentage; numbers that fail in comparison to Reimer’s impressive 1.96 GAA and .940 save percentage.
Assigning Gustavsson to the Marlies allows Maple Leafs management to continue to showcase Giguere to potential trade suitors, as well as continue to assess Reimer.
If all goes well, after the next two weeks the Leafs could potentially find themselves mere points out of a playoff spot, with a young goalie on a hot-streak and a veteran goalie that has played well enough to increase his value on the trade market.
In 14 days when Gustavsson’s conditioning stint ends, however, the trade deadline will still be over one week away. It will be interesting to see when, and if Giguere gets traded at all.
One thing for certain, ‘Optimus Reim’ is single-handily forcing Leafs management to transform the goal tending situation of the Maple Leafs. Which begs the questions; how will Burke rectify this problem in the end?
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