Wow, that was one boring weekend of hockey games. The Leafs won one, lost one, and both games featured about a combined one minute of scoring/scoring chances and 118 minutes of boring, goaless hockey.
The win against the Hurricanes was nice because the team was able to come from behind and at least overtime was fun to watch, but I thought last night’s Bruins game was the most boring game of the season so far.
Ask anyone and they’ll tell you the same thing: James Reimer is basically the nicest guy in hockey. So, that is why I couldn’t be happier to see him having some success. I was one of the people who didn’t believe in him, and I thought the Bernier trade was necessary and excellent, at the time.
I think Bernier is a lot better than he’s been given credit for, and I do think he’s talented, but Reimer’s play has been nothing short of spectacular. So spectacular that Don Cherry called him the best in the NHL right now last night.
Let’s check the stats:
Reimer is 3rd in the NHL (among goalies who’ve played at least 3oo minutes) in 5v5 save percentage. He leads the NHL in high-danger save percentage, which is commonly considered the most important goalie statistic. He is second in adjusted save percentage. When we consider the stats, we must conclude that Don Cherry is correct. There is no way to know if he’ll keep it up, but for now, Reimer is the best goalie in hockey.
Reimer also recently moved into the top ten in Maple Leafs all-time wins, which I found surprising. He is just 222 short of Turk Broda’s franchise leading 302 wins. Probably won’t get there, but at this point I wouldn’t mind signing him for a few years and getting rid of Bernier.
The Leafs are 7-10-4, good for 18 points and last in the Atlantic Division. It is not, however, as bad as it seems. The Leafs could easily have beaten the Bruins last night and if they did, they’d currently be ahead of both Boston and Buffalo. As it is, they sit only six points (3 wins) behind a pretty brutal Red Wings team, and after the Habs, the division is wide open.
Leo Komarov, James Van Reimsdyk, Morgan Rielly and Daniel Winnik lead the team with 7 5v5 points.
Tyler Bozak and Rielly are tied with 12 points overall. Eventually, however, Nazem Kadri will lead the Leafs in both categories, as he is unquestionably the team’s best player.
At 5v5, the most ice-time has gone to Matt Hunwick, Rielly, Gardiner and Dion Phaneuf with less than .75 of a minute separating them. Among forwards, Kadri plays a full minute more per game than anyone else.
Including special teams, Phaneuf plays 22 minutes per night, which leads the team. Kadri still leads the forwards, averaging 19 minutes per night – a full two more minutes per game than Bozak.
The Toronto Marlies currently lead the AHL with a 13-3-1 record, which is 27 points and six more than the Albany Devils who are second in their division.
William Nylander leads the AHL in points with 21 in 16 games (9 goals). T.J Brennan is also a top ten AHL scorer. In my opinion the Leafs should make room on the NHL roster for both of them. Frankly, I think it’s ridiculous that Brennan doesn’t get more of a chance to show he’s an NHL player as all he’s ever done is produce points and be one of the best D in the AHL.
The Leafs play the Bruins again tomorrow, and then are off until Saturday. This would seem like the perfect time to make some roster moves, get something for some of the spare parts we have and get some guys from the AHL up here so that we can seriously take a run at the Playoffs.
I mean, let’s face it: Reimer, Rielly, Gardiner, Kadri, JVR and Komarov are playing spectacular and bringing up a couple guys who will help make them even better is a no-brainer at this point. The Leafs are a team capable of being very good – they just need to make some roster room for the guys who can transition this team from potential to actual.
Now, that being said, if they want to just strip the team and make them artificially bad in order to get a high pick in next year’s draft, I wouldn’t be against that. However, I think that with Reimer, Kadri, Gardiner, JVR and Rielly they will be too good for that no matter what happens. That is why I think getting better now isn’t the worst thing. You can still have a patient and intelligent rebuild without tanking on purpose.
Thanks for reading.
Covering the Leafs for the Hockey Writers.