Gustavsson Sent to the Marlies

Jonas Gustavsson

Jonas Gustavsson
Following a difficult past two months, the Monster will seek to recapture his form in the AHL.

In a move that has been anticipated for some time now, Maple Leafs‘ goaltender Jonas Gustavsson has been loaned to the Toronto Marlies on a two-week conditioning stint.

The move creates an immediate two-fold benefit for the Leafs: (1) a chance for Gustavsson to re-discover his early-season form, and (2) an extended opportunity for James Reimer to continue his stellar play at the NHL level.

With the emergence of James Reimer, and the steady presence of Jean-Sebastien Giguere, one had to figure the Leafs could only go forward with a three-goalie rotation for so long.  It has been an unfortunate start to 2011 for Gustavsson; in order to get his game back to where it needs to be to compete in the NHL, he requires regular playing time. But with the Leafs in desperate need of wins, offering regular ice time to a goaltender plagued by inconsistency and confidence issues simply has not been a possibility.

The question many would ask is, why did it take so long for the Leafs to make this decision?

It’s the sort of question that really doesn’t have one hard and fast answer.  The truth is, there are often several factors at work in this sort of scenario, all of which play a significant role in the final decision that is made:

  • Part of it is management and the coaching staff wanting to ensure Reimer can handle regular duty in the NHL;
  • Part of it is the outstanding play of Ben Scrivens at the AHL level (due to roster constraints any move to send Gustavsson to the AHL would result in Scrivens returning to the lesser-competition of the ECHL);
  • Part of it is keeping Gustavsson on the roster to be able to work closely with the Leafs’ coaches, and moreso Giguere, in practice;
  • And it’s entirely possible a part of it may be injury-related as well. This is, of course, my own conjecture, but it is no secret that bumps and bruises which allow a player to practice, but keep him in the press box during games, are rarely listed on the injury reports.  It is by no means a stretch to wonder if the same thing has been happening with Gustavsson … under which circumstance, if he has reached the point where he is ready for game action again, a conditioning loan to the Marlies to get back into game shape would be the logical move. 

Fans should not look at this move as a lack of confidence in Gustavsson on the part of the team; rather, they are giving him a chance to re-focus, get himself back into game shape, and to recover some of his lost confidence via regular playing time. With a year left on his contract, and with Giguere not expected back next season, Gustavsson remains very much a part of the team’s plans moving forward.

For the time being (or, more specifically, for the next 14 days), the Leafs will rely on a Giguere / Reimer tandem in net. What happens after Gustavsson’s conditioning loan ends is anyone’s guess: the likeliest scenario is Reimer would be sent back to the AHL and Gustavsson would be given another chance to prove himself at the NHL level. Should Giguere be traded at some point, as many expect, the Leafs would in that case run with a Gustavsson / Reimer combination down the final stretch as a preview to next season’s much-anticipated netminding tandem.

Looking forward to your thoughts as always,