Is Burke really going to roll the dice with Reimer again?

32 Comments

What follows is the list of goalies that have played at least a game for the Toronto Maple Leafs since the 2004-05 lockout:

Jean-Sebastien Aubin, Mikael Tellqvist, Ed Belfour, Andrew Raycroft, Vesa Toskala, Scott Clemmensen, Martin Gerber, Curtis Joseph, Justin Pogge, Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Jonas Gustavsson, Joey MacDonald, James Reimer, Ben Scrivens, and Jussi Rynnas.

Not one was able to help the Leafs to the playoffs.

Last season, general manager Brian Burke rolled the dice on a pair of youngsters, Reimer and Gustavsson, who had started a combined 95 NHL games.

Prior to the season, Reimer was deemed the No. 1 based on an impressive 2010-11 rookie campaign in which he went 20-10-5 with a .921 save percentage in 37 appearances.

Yada, yada, yada, the Leafs missed the playoffs for the seventh straight season, this time after collapsing down the stretch in spectacular fashion. And while the goaltending wasn’t entirely to blame, it didn’t help any either.

“We’ve got two young kids in the net,” Leafs goalie coach Francois Allaire said mid-collapse. “Not a lot of experience. Nobody has more than 90 games in the NHL. So that’s normal and we’re right in the middle of [the playoff race].

“We’ll see if we’re strong enough to get through.”

Ultimately, they weren’t strong enough. Toronto finished 13th in the Eastern Conference, 12 points back of a playoff spot.

Yet here we are on July 11 and Burke still hasn’t done anything to address his team’s goaltending (unless trading Gustavsson is considered something.) As it stands, Reimer, 24, and Ben Scrivens – an undrafted 25-year-old that was in the ECHL for part of the 2010-11 season – are the Leafs’ top two goalies. Combined, the pair has 80 NHL starts under their belts.

Burke says he’s “prepared to go forward” with those two – an enormous risk given the fact many expect he’ll be fired should the Leafs fail to make the playoffs again — but at this point, his options are severely limited.

He couldn’t, or didn’t try to, sign free agents Tomas Vokoun, Josh Harding, or Clemmensen.

He inquired about Martin Brodeur before the latter re-upped with the Devils.

Roberto Luongo is still technically on the Canucks, but so far Burke’s balked at Vancouver’s asking price.

“From my perspective, the prices that are being asked have to be reasonable,” Burke said. “If you can get a goaltender who makes you better, and it costs you 15 first-round picks, would you do it? No.

“So somewhere between 15 first-round picks and something that makes sense, we’re not there yet. I’m not going to overpay to upgrade at that position. I’m not happy with what’s being asked. From my perspective, rather than strip your organization to fill one positional need, we’ll go with what we have.”

Of course, even if he were willing to pay the price, it’s not clear whether Luongo would accept a trade to Toronto.

So, what’s left? The UFA cupboard is bare. Minnesota GM Chuck Fletcher has said he’s not interested in trading Niklas Backstrom. Tim Thomas is taking the year off.

There’s no reason to believe Reimer can’t be a good NHL starter. However, is it smart to put everything on his shoulders again?

Perhaps more importantly, is it fair?

The Colorado Avalanche’s win streak hits double digits

Associated Press
1 Comment

The streak is now in double digits.

The Colorado Avalanche won their 10th straight game on Monday night, taking down the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-2.

Yes, that’s 10 wins by the team that ended last season with an NHL-worst 48 points.

Hockey is wonderful, isn’t it?

The Avalanche have been pretty darn good during that streak, outscoring opponents 41-16 during that span. Scoring four goals per game on average will win you more than it won’t.

And the Avs have had success on the back end. Jonathan Bernier has been completely lights out during the streak. He is on a streak of his own with nine straight wins, becoming the third netminder in franchise history to win nine in a row.

Colorado’s streak is also an NHL-best this season and it’s the second longest streak in Avs history (they won 12 straight during the 1998-99 season).

The Avs are sitting on 57 points, good for the second wildcard spot in the Western Conference.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Jason Zucker takes a puck to the head (video)

Getty Images
Leave a comment

How in the world did he get up?

Too many players have been getting drilled in the head lately by slap shots. It’s an ugly site to behold whenever it happens

Somehow, however, Jason Zucker of the Minnesota Wild was able to pop right back up and head directly to the dressing room. No passing GO on this one.

The puck hit him so squarely in the helmet that it ricocheted back toward the Thomas Chabot, who uncorked the shot in the first place.

Even more insane is that Zucker was able to return to the game.

Talk about hard-headed.

Who could take Taylor Hall’s place if he has to miss the All-Star Game?

Getty Images
1 Comment

With Taylor Hall set to miss the next couple of games due to a hand injury, and with that injury putting his All-Star Game prospects in jeopardy, we look at the players who are worthy of replacing the New Jersey Devils forward if he has to miss this weekend’s festivities.

Two names that immediately come to mind are Pittsburgh Penguins forward Phil Kessel and Philadelphia Flyers forward Sean Couturier.

There was already an argument that Kessel deserved to be at the ASG over Sidney Crosby. He was leading the Penguins in points then and two weeks later, he continues to pace Pittsburgh with 21 goals (tied with Evgeni Malkin) and 54 points, three more points than Crosby.

Couturier has already smashed his previous career highs in both goals (26) and points (47). He’s been part of the reason that Claude Giroux is already headed to the ASG and deserves to be there himself.

At third would have to be Sebastian Aho. The talent in the Metropolitan is evident with his snub. He’s clearly the best player on the Carolina Hurricanes this season (no disrespect to Teuvo Teravainen).

Aho is well on his way to eclipsing his rookie-season totals and a big reason why the Hurricanes are three points back of a playoff spot.

Beyond those three guys, there’s a few that certainly deserve the honor:

  • Anders Lee has 27 goals this season, seven off the pace he set last season with half the season to go.
  • Jakub Voracek leads the NHL with 45 assists, four more than teammate Giroux.
  • Evgeni Malkin. Not having a bad year.

It’s important to remember that the at-least-one-player-per-team rule goes out the window when it comes to replacing another All-Star.

There are certainly some very deserving names that didn’t get the first call.

But life’s about second chances.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

WATCH LIVE: Tampa Bay Lightning vs Chicago Blackhawks

Getty Images
2 Comments

CLICK HERE TO WATCH

Projected Lines

Tampa Bay Lightning

Nikita KucherovBrayden PointTyler Johnson

Vladislav NamestnikovSteven StamkosChris Kunitz

Alex Killorn — Matthew Peca — Yanni Gourde

Michael Bournival — Cedric PaquetteRyan Callahan

Jake DotchinAnton Stralman

Mikhail SergachevDan Girardi

Braydon CoburnAndrej Sustr

Starting goalie: Andrei Vasilevskiy

NHL on NBCSN: ‘Out of sync’ Lightning look to end three-game losing skid against ‘Hawks

Chicago Blackhawks

Brandon SaadJonathan ToewsAnthony Duclair

Patrick SharpNick SchmaltzPatrick Kane

Alex DeBrincatArtem AnisimovRyan Hartman

Tomas Jurco — David Kampf — Vinnie Hinostroza

Duncan KeithJordan Oesterle

Erik Gustafsson — Brent Seabrook

Michal KempnyConnor Murphy

Starting goalie: Jeff Glass