Back in 2012, I was one of a few, if not the only one, in Leaf Nation who said the Toronto Maple Leafs did not have a problem in net. The tandem of James Reimer and Ben Scrivens were capable enough to handle the goaltending duties. What management needed to do was get some help up front, guys who can take opposing forwards to the boards whenever they touch the puck.
But since the Toronto media and some rogue fans urged them to get a goaltender, the Buds acquired Jonathan Bernier from Los Angeles this past off-season. While the result to this date is not a total disaster, it has hardly been an improvement. What the arrival of Bernier brought was an unnecessary goaltending controversy.
Previous Toronto teams had solid goaltending from one main guy (i.e. Ed Belfour, Curtis Joseph, Felix Potvin, etc.) and he would take care of the mistakes many defenseman would make when trying to generate scoring chances. Last season, Reimer was able to fill that role and lead the Leafs to the playoffs.
What we have now is a team that has two goaltenders who want to be the starter. It is kind of like having Peyton Manning and Tom Brady quarterbacking the same football team. One of the two has to be the main guy. There can be no sharing of responsibilities. And since much of the team’s resources are put into Bernier and Reimer, it does not leave the Leafs much room under the salary cap to improve on what was really needed, their defense corps.
I won’t point the finger solely at Bernier. I bet he would not agree to come to Toronto if he was not assured of getting the #1 job. But this is one mess that was clearly avoidable. Hopefully, Dave Nonis and Randy Carlyse can sort this out before the playoffs or we can add another year to the drought.