After quite literally years of sucking the Leafs appear to be a cap-concious team lately (They're $9mil under), which is nice to see considering I don't believe they're finished the rebuilding process just yet. The reality though is that they haven't made the playoffs in 3000 days.. that's what someone tweeted the other day anyway, I believe it. With nearly the same team heading into this season as last, there shouldn't be any way they can do any worse right? Welllll that's up for debate.
|Could be a lonley lonnnnng year for Optimus Reim|
The reason that's up for debate is their goaltending situation. Barring the blockbuster trade for Luongo (which is unlikely considering the Leafs assests), GM Brian Burke has decided to go with youth. James Reimer's 71 career games played is the most of any Leafs tender.. excuse me? On top of that he has concussion issues which plaugued him last year (after what looked like a pretty greasy side-swipe by Brian Gionta.. I'll give Brian the benefit of the doubt since he's not your typical dusty player). The other Brian, Brian Burke, has repeatedly said he has the utmost confidence in Reimer and that he is a starting calibre goalie. Well Burkie's job is likely on the line this season after so much futility so he better be right or he's getting canned.
The second most NHL experience on the Leafs goaltending roster is none other than Ben Scrivens. The Cornell University product (where he was outstanding btw) will also be the elderstatesman come training camp. That's right, turning 26 this September will mean Scrivens is the oldest of all the Leafs goalies as of right now. His 12 games of experience in the show don't give me a whole lot of confidence in him as a potential back-up. With Gustavsson not panning out (and now off to the Wings where he will undoubtedly shine as most players do upon joining the franchise) the Leafs are left with Scrivens or one of two Scandinavian prospects in the back-up role.
23-year-old Mark Owuya of Stockholm is the youngest and seemingly most promising of the Maple Leaf tendys. After a season as a pro starting for Djurgarden in the SEL (32 games, 2.18gaa, 92.7sv%) he was signed by Burke and the Leafs to a free agent contract. Since he came in as a longshot last year he had to battle hard for his starts, first in Reading (16-5-3, 2.63gaa, 93.0sv%) and then with the Marlies (11-5-1, 1.94gaa, 92.9sv%). As a North American rookie those are fantastic numbers. He clearly hasn't had difficulty adapting to the smaller rink and if I was Burke I'd be giving him a nice long look at training camp.
The fourth and final tender is Finn, Jussi Rynnas. Compared to Gustavsson, who was "the monster" at 6'3 (ridiculous) this guy really is a monster at 6'5. If you're 6'5 and Scandinavian you can get a contract as an NHL goalie prospect.. just saying these guys are huge! In exactly the same situation as in 2011 with Owuya, Rynnas signed with the Leafs in 2009 after a professional season in Finland playing for Assat. Now with two seasons of pro experience for Reading (8-5-1), the Marlies (21-24-4), and two games with the big boys (0-1, 4.24gaa, 82.5sv%) it's make or break time for the big fella. 40 total NHL shots gives him the 3rd most experience of Leaf goaltenders..
Reimer has the best nicknames in the NHL.. Optimus Reim, the Rei-minister. This is the reason I want him to succedd. However, the bottom line is.. these guys are just too hard to judge with so little professional experience. They could be outstanding! But the more likely situation is that they're underwhelming. I hate to do this to all you Leaf fans out there, but I ranked the Islanders a 4/10 and the Leafs are worse off. Maybe even as bad as the Blue Jackets! Who I didn't even give a number! I'm sliding the Leafs 2 quick uppercuts and a jab to the nose.. they go down easy (3/10).