Today in Leafs’ news:
– In a move that should surprise no one, goaltender James Reimer was returned to the Toronto Marlies as Jean-Sebastien Giguere has been deemed ready to return to action;
– Mike Brown has been suspended 3 games for his hit on Ed Jovanovski during last night’s heated tilt in Phoenix; and,
– Off-season FA signing Marcel Mueller has been recalled to fill Brown’s roster spot.
Reimer Returned to Marlies
News: Surprise of the century, right? Actually, this move should catch no one off-guard. Although Reimer posted excellent numbers in his six starts (he is now 4-2-0 with a 2.27 GAA and .933 SV% in 7 appearances), the fact of the matter remains both Giguere and Jonas Gustavsson would be subject to waivers if they were to be sent down. Reimer is the only goaltender of the three who can be returned to the AHL without running the risk of losing a player for nothing.
GB’s Take: The simple solution – as many have pointed out – would be for the Leafs to carry three netminders for the foreseeable future. However, with the injury bug continuing to strike the team (Kris Versteeg and Fredrik Sjostrom are the latest victims), the Leafs simply cannot afford to assign an extra roster spot to a third goaltender.
While some have voiced the opinion that Jonas Gustavsson spend some time with the Marlies to rediscover his form, his potential and easily-affordable contract leave next to no chance he would pass through waivers unclaimed.Â And while others may claim that Giguere could survive a trip through the waiver wire given his bloated salary, his impending free agent status may be enough for some teams to want to take the risk.
Further, Giguere has outperformed Gustavsson in every major statistical category to date, so sending him down in lieu of Gustavsson at this point makes little sense. Never mind his standing within the league, and his much-respected presence in the locker room. Â Some have suggested Giguere should play in order to show he has trade value; however, he carries a no-trade clause and we all know how GM Brian Burke feels about asking his own players to waive. In other words, the only way a deal involving Giguere happens is if another GM approaches his agent requesting that he consider waiving his NTC.
In the meantime, Reimer should be lauded for making the most of his opportunity while it lasted. It is important to remember that he was called up as an injury replacement, and expectations for his performance were minimal beyond providing him an opportunity to show he can play at the NHL level.Â He took the ball (er, puck) and ran with it, and then some. While the argument to keep him on the roster in light of his play is certainly valid, the bottom line is theÂ logistics of doing so – namely the impact on roster flexibility and playing time for the other two – present a problem.
Reimer remains a valued prospect within the organization. His demotion should not be seen as any sort of criticism or judgment on his play; rather, he has substantially increased his value to, and standing within, the organization by virtue of making the most of what was never going to be more than a limited opportunity. His NHL future is bright, and Leafs fans should be pleased they saw such a terrific glimpse of a prospect who was not expected to even get an opportunity at the NHL level this season.
News: The NHL has handed Maple Leafs’ winger Mike Brown a three-game suspension for his blindside hit on Ed Jovanovski during Thursday night’s game in Phoenix.Â Replays showed Jovanovski lowered his head as Brown — who was not in Jovanovski’s line of sight — was coming in leading with the shoulder, and as a result the point of impact became the side of Jovanovski’s head instead of his shoulder pads as appeared to be intended.
GB’s Take: While a suspension in and of itself is not at all surprising, it did not seem as though the head was intentionally targeted, and as such one could be inclined to argue three games would seem a bit lengthy for incidental contact.
Upon further review, however, one could argue — quite validly — that regardless of whether there was or was not intent behind the head-shot, Brown did not need to drive toward Jovanovski in the manner in which he did.Â Players going in to deliver a hit have a responsibility to avoid situations where they are coming in from behind, or from a blind spot.Â It is not as though Jovanovski saw him coming and then turned away; Brown literally took a run at him from an angle where Jovanovski could not anticipate the hit or brace/defend himself. Which is exactly the sort of recklessness the NHL is trying to eliminate from the game.
Forget the fact Brown wasn’t given a penalty on the play — the referees flat-out missed what could have easily been a charging or a roughing call, if not a misconduct.
In short, there are no excuses for the sort of recklessness Brown displayed in taking the angle he did when making the hit. While concerns that a three-game suspension may be perceived as punishment for showing intent to injure when there may have been none are more than fair, the fact remains it was a dangerous play in which Jovanovski was fortunate to escape without serious injury.
Marcel Mueller Recalled from the Marlies
News: The Leafs have announced the re-call of winger Marcel Mueller to fill the roster spot created by Mike Brown’s suspension. The 25-year old winger, who is listed at 6’3″ 232,Â was signed from the German DEL during the off-season. With the Toronto Marlies, Mueller overcame a difficult start (1 goal, 4 assists in his first 21 games) to become one of the Marlies’ most reliable producers (6 goals, 9 assists in his last 18 games).
GB’s Take: A power forward by trade, Mueller was expected to be an important contributor to the Marlies from the outset. Although his adjustment to the North American game took longer than was initially hoped, he has earned with his recent play a chance to show what he can do at the NHL level.
Similar to Reimer, odds are Mueller’s call-up will be limited in its timespan; once the Leafs’ regulars have returned from injury/suspension he will in all likelihood head back to the AHL. Consider Mueller’s call-up a prospect being rewarded for hard work and terrific play, and a glimpse at another potential piece of the franchise’s future.
Looking forward to your thoughts as always,