TORONTO – They call him the most interesting man in the world.
"He's so interesting it's crazy," Colby Armstrong exclaimed.
And much like the widely celebrated figure in the Dos Equis beer commercials, Jonas Gustavsson has evolved into a cult hero of sorts in the Maple Leafs dressing room.
"We bug him that he's the most interesting man in the world," Armstrong grinned, referencing the popular series of advertisements.
"Remember in the commercial, he's like riding a horse on his bare feet, like standing on the horse and it's running...I think Monster could do that. I think he could easily do that. He's a master of so many things; he's sick at ping-pong, golf, he can do anything and he just has his own style to doing it which makes him super-interesting. And he's Swedish and quiet, so it's just so mysterious you know what I mean?"
Now in his third NHL season, the 27-year-old goaltender from Danderyd, Sweden is finally finding his groove in Toronto, climbing past a string of adversity – prominently a series of heart procedures – which plagued his first two seasons as a Leaf. Gustavsson has posted 10 wins (two shutouts) in his last 14 starts with a sparkling 2.28 goals against average and .926 save percentage, pushing James Reimer for a regular stint in the starter's role.
More at ease in his performance on the ice, Gustavsson has also grown unquestionably more diverse in his personality off of it. "His first probably year and a bit you couldn't even really get a word out of him," Luke Schenn said. Reserved and a bit of an unknown in those early days, Gustavsson spent much of his time off the ice amongst a small, but tight-knit Swedish contingent – a group which included Carl Gunnarsson and the now-departed combo of Rickard Wallin and Fredrik Sjostrom.
That's changed this season.
"He's like one of the boys now," Schenn said. "He takes jabs at the guys, he'll chirp back and forth. We're all buddies with him. He's the guy that you always want to be around."
Quiet and unassuming, Gustavsson has proved quite capable of lobbing the odd chirp.
"It wouldn't be funny if it came from anyone else," Schenn smirked, "but it's funny because it came from him-type thing.
"He's definitely come out of his shell a lot more."
Flourishing in his personality with teammates hasn't changed a steady approach to the game, this in spite of a rollercoaster beginning to his NHL career. Heavily-hyped upon his arrival from Sweden in the summer of 2009, Gustavsson was rather inconsistent when he did get an opportunity, not helped either by suspect defence or minimal goal support.
Still, there was never a peep of complaint.
"I've never ever heard the Monster complain ever in his life and that's the honest to God truth," Schenn said. "Never heard a complaint come out of him, whether it's blaming us defencemen for something or him not playing or having a tough night. We've never really seen that side of him."
"And the great thing about him," Schenn continued, "it doesn't matter if he's playing or not playing he's always going to go about his business in the same way. He's a great guy to have around and he doesn't really change his personality and attitude. He's a guy that everyone's grown to love the more he's been there."
Even with all the mystery.
"I'd love to get inside the mind of him," Armstrong concluded. "You just pick apart all the different thoughts and the stuff that he doesn't say, you could see it because I think he's holding a lot in.
"He's a quiet, mysterious man."