TORONTO – The Leafs' goaltending situation is unsettled with training camp days away.
Roberto Luongo speculation swirls amid questions about the potential inexperienced tandem of James Reimer and Ben Scrivens. Early indications from Randy Carlyle suggest that Reimer, the organization's implied number one – barring a trade – won't necessarily be handed starting keys to the Toronto crease.
"With [James Reimer], he was the No. 1 goalie," said Carlyle from the Air Canada Centre on Monday morning, his first comments since a tentative deal was struck to the end 113-day lockout. "Would Ben Scrivens or Jussi Rynnas have an opportunity to outcompete [Reimer]? It would be a tough one. But again, that's what training camps are for; competition for positions."
A trade for Roberto Luongo would dramatically and instantly alter the Leafs goaltending fortunes, solidifying what's become an increasingly unstable position. But with finer details of a new collective bargaining agreement still unknown (would teams like the Canucks be penalized for longer-term deals in spite of trades or retirement?), Luongo's desire to land in Toronto in question, and the organization's inclination to shoulder a lengthy contract uncertain, the deal is far from a certainty.
Luongo aside, Scrivens and to a much lesser degree Rynnas, remain Reimer's immediate impediments to reclaiming the starting job. While he started slowly with the Marlies this fall, the 26-year-old Scrivens has picked up his play considerably over the past month, winning nine of his last 10 starts. And unlike Reimer, he's been in consistent game action since September.
While nearly all NHL players are subject to the game inactivity a work stoppage presents, Reimer may be a more extreme case, having not played in nearly 10 months. His last game action with the Leafs took place all the way back on March 23rd.
"I think there's always a little bit of rust when you haven't been playing for a while," he concurred, "but I feel good right now."
Injuries marred the 24-year-old's second season in the NHL, compounded by an obvious dip in confidence. Reimer said Monday afternoon from Mastercard Centre that he was prepared to compete for the starting job.
"That's how I try to treat every training camp, whether you're the number one starter or you're coming in as the penciled in back-up. You compete with the other guy and you try and make each other better. You want to earn the games you play, you don't want them given to you."
If a trade for Luongo fails to materialize, the Leafs will be wholly unproven in goal yet again; Reimer and Scrivens have combined to play only 82 NHL games.
"Our goaltending is NHL-quality goaltending," said Carlyle. "We have some people that can play at a high level in the NHL and it's not just the goaltenders' responsibility, it's our responsibility as a coaching staff to implement a system where we can be better defensively."
Only the Lightning had worse goaltending than the Leafs last season, a stable of Reimer, Scrivens, Rynnas and Jonas Gustavsson unable to impose any semblance of continued stability. Luongo would immediately shore up those question marks. While he eventually lost his starting job to Cory Schneider, the three-time Vezina finalist still posted a 2.41 goals against average and .919 save percentage, numbers that crush any of those in the Toronto crease.