TLN Mailbag: Goalie Controversy Season!

Twas the week before the NHL season openers, 

and all through the league,

Raffi Torres was throwing elbows into heads, 

and Toronto’s goalie situation was creating intrigue…

Have I mentioned that I hate goaltending controversies? 

@saxihighlandck: Reimer and Bernier: tandem 1A/1B or starter and backup this season? 

Depending on how you view starter vs. backup roles in the NHL, they could easily be described as either. 

I consider a 1A/1B role to still be starter/backup in nature, with the starter being the skater the team is either likely to start in net to open the season (hello, Bernier) or use for the post-season. I’d say that’s still Bernier. 

Bernier seems to be best served to play 50-60 games, though, which still leaves anywhere from 22-32 starts for Reimer; not bad for a backup at all. 

That’s how I’d project the breakdown, and the comment section on the goalie depth piece I did earlier this week shows that a lot of you are going to be angry with that. I really don’t care, and I don’t think the Leafs do, either: at this point, there are hundreds of people who will be upset with literally whatever choice the team makes in net. 

I think they need to set a plan – and a rough 50-32 split seems like a good plan to me – and stick to it as much as possible; unless something goes really wrong (and In Goal Mag’s Paul Campbell has literally broken down the stats to suggest that they haven’t gone wrong yet) it’s best to give the goalies some semblance of structure next year. 

I hope that answer makes sense. 

@Hedgery: Should the Leafs send Harrington to the AHL to try to avoid the same thing happening to him that happened to Percy last season? 

That’s tough. 

Obviously, last year sucked for Percy; not in that he was an awful player, but in that the team just didn’t do the right things with him. A combination of a bad season, bad management (both of Percy and of the team as a whole) and a crummy mid-season injury took what could have been an awesome breakout year for the blue liner and turned it into a season where quite a few people lost their faith in the former first rounder. 

Harrington and Percy are barely a few months apart, though, so assume that we aren’t talking about a 21 year old Harrington; we’re looking at what Percy could have been this year if last year had gone his way. Both skaters are 22, got a taste of NHL action last year, and spent a good chunk of time in the minors – but Harrington doesn’t have to recover from the way that his 2014-2015 season went. 

There’s nothing for Harrington to shake off, and I think that’s going to make a huge difference. Ultimately, Kyle Dubas mentioned that he thought things were handled poorly in Percy’s case last year; operating under the assumption that the team is going to use those mistakes as a cautionary tale when handling Harrington, you’d have to guess there’s less of a concern than we probably think there is in this situation. 

@PuckDontLie: Why is Garret Sparks so awesome, and how long until Mark Arcobello is 1C with the Leafs? 

Aside from Sparks’ strong social media game, he’s obviously awesome because he spends a lot of time thinking the game – and sharing his thoughts with us. Obviously, no NHL (or AHL) goaltender since Eddie Belfour has really been able to just go out, get smashed, then show up to the rink the next day and win games; all pro goaltenders are obviously big thinkers of the game. Sparks lets us know what he’s thinking, though, and he shares his knowledge as a coach on a regular basis. Teaching is a great way to improve your own game, and I think he’s going to succeed all the more as a result. 

As for Arcobello, Leafs fans don’t seem to high on him. Given the organization’s history with using universally disliked players as top six skaters, I’ll assume he’s 1C by opening night. 

@Randiyo: Are the Leafs going to come in 29th or 30th this year? 

I mean, they *could*. I’ll hold off on saying yes, though, until we’ve gotten a few games out of my ‘holy smokes look at these lineup’ teams first: the Vancouver Canucks, the Colorado Avalanche, the Arizona Coyotes, the New Jersey Devils, and the Leafs themselves. I expect bottom five to bottom ten, but hockey is weird.


@GradHawksBlog: will any of the young talent make it up this year? If so, who? 

Depending on how the Leafs are doing – and how the prospects are doing in the AHL – a few names could debut on the roster this year. 

Last season saw the Boston Bruins call up an 18 year old David Pastrnak mid-way through the year, when it became clear that the team was too injured to compete without assistance and the first rounder was scoring over a point per game at the AHL level. 

If Willie Nylander, Kasperi Kapanen, or Connor Brown are standing out at the AHL level that much, expect to see them get serious looks with Toronto – especially if they score in their first game or two up. That’s really the only way you’ll want to see them in the NHL lineup, though; if you have those three in a limited bottom six role, they won’t get the ice time they need to develop (especially with the poor supporting cast they’ll have anyway). 

If there doesn’t seem to be some kind of magic at the NHL level, someone like Sam Carrick or Byron Froese may be a better call-up. It’s better to put a bottom six prospect in a bottom six role than it is to limit someone like Nylander or Brown to a checking role, at least on offense. 

As for defense, there’s always the chance that Stuart Percy gets a look, and Loov has looked really strong. The blue line is always a toss-up, but I wouldn’t be altogether surprised to see their names. 

@PuckDontLie: who wins in a bare-knuckle boxing match; Shanny or Babcock? 

I would have to go with the dancing Shanahan. 

@MikeFAIL: Who do you feel will create a bigger impact: Matthias, Winnik, or Arcobello? And who will be traded first? 

Honestly, the answer to the first question will probably end up being the answer to the second one, as well – that is, so long as the team doesn’t trade the odd man out of these three rather than keeping him in the press box as the extra skater. 

We can assume that the most impactful forward of these three will play on the second or third line at some point throughout the year, and we know that both Winnik and Arcobello have been known to put up some pretty good numbers when playing in less than ideal situations; I’d go with one of the two being the more impactful, although that could depend on nothing more than who gets more ice time. I don’t consider Winnik and Arcobello to be similar styled players at *all*, but they do hold a pretty similar upside when it comes to contributions for the team; the difference between their total outputs could be the result of nothing more than exposure and time in each situation. 

I liked seeing Arcobello with Kadri during the game against the Red Wings, though (and Arcobello does seem to have Detroit’s number, since he scored two goals and an assist in a single game against them with the Coyotes last season, as well). I’d put him in the more offensive situation and give him the chance to score, while Winnik can be a useful checking player on a third line. 

Whichever is more useful – and Arcobello probably won’t be happy about this if it’s him – is probably going to be the one who goes first, because he’ll fetch the higher price. #Journeymanobello could be on the move again by the deadline.