Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke will tell anyone who’ll listen that he builds his teams starting from the net, moving out toward the defense corps, and, finally, with the forwards.
Burke has been true to that blueprint since he got to Toronto by signing Jonas Gustavsson and acquiring Jean-Sebastien Giguere from Anaheim last season. But of late, it appears the Leafs’ net situation isn’t quite as solidified for the future as he might like.
Yet, while there are worrisome signs regarding the Buds’ backstoppers, the truth is somewhat more comforting.
First, the troubling stuff: Giguere has continued to have problems with his groin — and struggled on the ice, as evidenced by an .894 save percentage and 2.80 goals against average, and Gustavsson (3.10 G.A.A., .894 save percentage) has looked equally inconsistent.
The better news is Burke has hedged his organization’s bets by stockpiling a number of goaltending prospects, including Finnish netminder Jussi Rynnas and Canadians Ben Scrivens and James Reimer. All three have accomplishments on their resumes that suggest they could get a shot at the Leafs’ net duties sooner or later.
Rynnas is a rookie to the North American game, but with Toronto’s American League affiliate, he’s been named an AHL player of the week and has an impressive .922 save percentage in 18 games with the Marlies this season.
Reimer also has good numbers (including a 7-3-1 record, .920 save percentage and three shutouts) with the Marlies. And Scrivens, who began the year with Toronto’s ECHL affiliate, was named the top goalie in one conference of NCAA Division 1 hockey last season.
Burke doesn’t need any one of the four (including Gustavsson) in particular to pan out – but he desperately needs at least one of them to prove Toronto’s scouts and player developers were right to sign them.
If that can’t happen, Burke will be forced to look at trades or signings to address the position. And as is painfully evident, he doesn’t have many organizational assets with which to tempt other GMs.
For the sake of Leafs fans, let’s hope it won’t come to that.