Posted on: December 26, 2011 11:55 am
Edited on: December 26, 2011 4:32 pm
By: Adam Gretz
Over the past month-and-a-half it's been the season for firing coaches in the NHL.
While we've already seen changes in Washington, Anaheim, Los Angeles, Carolina and Montreal, not to mention St. Louis earlier in the year, Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Ron Wilson went to his own personal Twitter account as the NHL went to its holiday break and asked for a certain piece of paper (a contract extension) in his stocking for Christmas.
And that's exactly what he received over the holiday weekend.
It's kind of a bold move for the Maple Leafs organization given that Wilson has been behind the bench for three full seasons and failed to make the playoffs in all of them, while compiling a 101-107-38 record entering this season. Through 35 games in 2011 Toronto owns an 18-13-4 mark and occupies the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference entering Monday's slate of games, three points ahead of the Winnipeg Jets, the team that occupies the No. 9 spot (and first non-playoff spot).
The reaction from Toronto seems to be that the Maple Leafs haven't shown enough under Wilson's watch to justify any sort of a contract extension, and that general manager Brian Burke has put his own neck on the line by once again committing to Wilson.
Even if all of that is true (and it very well might be) something had to be done (and probably soon) as Wilson was in the final year of his current contract. Having a lame duck coach isn't really an ideal situation for anybody, and the Leafs certainly weren't going to dismiss Wilson at this point given Toronto's start.
And speaking of that start, it's been Toronto's best one in years, and has been driven almost entirely by the team's power play unit, currently clicking at a 21 percent rate, third best in the league, and the scoring of forwards Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul, both of whom are in the top-10 in the NHL's scoring race. And that's about it. Scoring depth isn't great once you get beyond Kessel and Lupul, and the goaltending, whether it's been James Reimer, Jonas Gustavsson or Ben Scrivens, has struggled.
Unless you believe the Maple Leafs power play is going to continue to be one of the best in the NHL all season, after being one of the worst over the past two years with largely the same cast of characters, and that Kessel and Lupul are going to remain near the top of the points leader board, this has the chance of being a fourth-straight non-playoff season under Wilson if those two areas see any sort of a regression the rest of the way. And I'm not convinced either of those two positive developments will continue all season. They have the look of early season hot streaks and fast starts that aren't going to be sustainable over the long haul of the season.
The Maple Leafs power play, which generates one of the lowest shot rates in the NHL per 60 minutes of power play time, currently owns a shooting percentage in the 18-percent range, by far the best mark in the NHL and significantly higher than what it's managed to shoot at in recent seasons (over the past three years Toronto, as a team, has owned 5-on-4 shooting percentages of 13 percent, 9 percent and 12 percent). The only team to finish a season with a higher power play shooting percentage was the 2008-09 Flyers. The number of shots a team generates on the power play is usually the best indicator of future success, which could be bad news for the Leafs over the remainder of the season.
The playoffs are far from a lock at this point, and even though Wilson has his contract extension right now that's still not a guarantee that he'll be behind the bench next season if his team fails to qualify for the postseason for a fourth straight year with him behind the bench.
More on the NHL's Coaching Carousel
For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: November 10, 2011 3:10 pm
Edited on: November 10, 2011 3:23 pm
One thing is becoming increasingly clear with each passing game in Toronto: the Maple Leafs miss James Reimer in net. What's becoming increasly unclear is when he will return and what he's even suffering from.
You know it's bad when his own mom isn't sure what exactly is going on. How do we know? Dave Feschuk of the Toronto Star asked her.
“We’re beginning to be a little more concerned than we were at first,” Reimer's mother told Feschuk. “At first, when (the Maple Leafs) said it was just going to be a day-to-day whiplash kind of thing, you just wait it out. But definitely our concerns are getting a little stronger as time that passes. We’re definitely hoping there are going to be some answers coming out of the team shortly, what they’re doing or what they’re planning to do.”
“That’s the frustrating part for us -- not knowing what it is, and why they’re not calling it a concussion when they say ‘concussion-like symptoms,’” Marlene Reimer said. “Like, how is that not a concussion? ... The initial test showed him to be clear of a concussion. But as it goes on, it’s kind of mystifying. He’s okay some days. And some days he’s definitely not okay.”
Read the full story for more.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch (or Toronto), Leafs coach Ron Wilson shared his displeasure with a member of the media calling Reimer's mom. But with how quiet they have been about the injury, the hungry Toronto media would find a way to get some answers.
On the ice, the fans are growing more and more anxious about Reimer's return. That's because Jonas Gustavsson has been ... not very good. He was booed mercilessly before being pulled in Toronto's 5-1 loss to Florida on Tuesday. There has been a lot of discussion about the Leafs trying to get a third goalie on the roster.
The belief is that GM Brian Burke, especially if Reimer continues to sit out, will look for another goalie. Either way, Reimer playing or not, it would be wise for Toronto to get a quality backup. Gustavsson has about worn out his welcome and Ben Scrivens hasn't inspired a lot of confidence either.
Among the names you are most likely to hear for possibilities in that backup spot are Marty Turco and the one I will continue to mention, Scott Clemmensen in Florida.
In the meantime, Mama Reimer will continue to wonder how exactly her son is doing.
Posted on: October 27, 2011 1:12 pm
Edited on: October 27, 2011 6:55 pm
The Toronto Maple Leafs put a lot of eggs in the basket of James Reimer this season to be their No. 1 goaltender. So when he goes down, they get a little worried in Toronto. Especially when the word "concussion" is being tossed around.
Reimer was out Thursday night when the Leafs opened the new(er) Madison Square Garden against the Rangers. He's out after suffering a "whip-lash like" injury against the Canadiens. So the Leafs will have to start Jonas Gustavsson and they recalled Ben Scrivens to be the backup.
The only thing more frightening to Leafs fans than The Monster getting an increased number of starts? Him using the word "concussion" about Reimer. That's what he said Reimer is suffering from earlier on Thursday. Coach Ron Wilson later said team doctors haven't indicated if Reimer has a concussion or not.
"Last time I checked, I don’t have a medical degree and I don’t think The Monster does either," Wilson said.
GM Brian Burke isn't ready to call it a concussion at this point. Just see this tweet from Toronto sports radio host Daren Millard.
"Brian Burke says reimer being treated for concussion like symptoms. But club sticking to whip-lash."
Let's just put it this way: The team is being very careful -- as it should be -- regarding Reimer and will rely on Gustavsson and Scrivens in the meantime. This is the gamble that Burke took before the season, keeping Gustavsson as his backup. Just to bring a little context here, Gustavsson has a 4.88 goals against and .857 save percentage this season in his three games. This will give Toronto another chance to give Gustavsson a good look and see how capable he is, but if past performance is any indication of future outcomes, well ...
If it is determined that Reimer will be out for a longer length of time -- which doesn't seem to be the case -- or just the realization that if Reimer were to be injured again and out long-term that Gustavsson and Scrivens are the backups, it could prompt Burke to look around for a backup. There might be one available in Florida with Scott Clemmensen returning to health considering the way their rookie Jacob Markstrom has played.
Either way, the Leafs will need Reimer healthy if they hope to end their six-year postseason drought.
Since getting the lion's share of the load near the tail end of the season, the Maple Leafs have noticed a difference. In the 43 games he has played in his career, he has compiled a 24-10-6 record with a .920 save percentage and 2.59 goals against average. Comparatively, Gustavsson has a 23-30-11 career record and one of the goalies before Reimer, Jean-Sebastien Giguere, was 17-18-6 in 48 games. Notice a difference?
It's clear what Reimer means to Toronto. It's easy to call him the missing piece to their puzzle, goaltending has been the achilles heel for years. So the fingers are crossed tightly that this will only be a game or two absence.
In the meantime, it only seems fitting this time of year for the Maple Leafs to turn the keys over to a guy nicknamed the Monster.
Photo: Getty Images