TORONTO – Ben Scrivens snatches the word flush out of mid-air and deconstructs its connotation.
Unproven he says is a simple contradiction, a catch-22 in void of a winning scenario, a quagmire of sorts.
"Jonathan Quick was unproven until last year," said Scrivens of the Los Angeles Kings netminder, a 26-year-old who won the Conn Smythe trophy en route to a Stanley Cup last spring. "He was a guy who played 100 games, but his first stint in the NHL I think he played under five games and had a goals against of three and a half and like an .870 save percentage. Imagine if they [said], 'Oh we can't give this guy a chance, he's unproven'.
"I'm not comparing myself to Quick or anybody. I'm just saying if I'm going to fail let me fail, I'd like an opportunity to prove it."
Slotted as the back-up to James Reimer with the Leafs – barring a last-minute trade - Scrivens forms one half of a largely unproven entity in the Leafs crease this coming season. Unlike Reimer, the former Cornell University star is coming off a banner year. He led the American League with a 2.04 goals against average in the regular season before guiding the Marlies to the Calder Cup final with a masterful postseason run that included four shutouts. He also made his NHL debut, playing in 11 games with predictable rookie results.
Looking ahead past the dim light of the lockout and it's apparent that meaningful opportunity could be there for the taking with the Leafs. Reimer has the full backing of the organization at the moment, but is coming off an injury-plagued season with much to prove in his own right. Anxious to showcase himself at the next level, Scrivens should be nipping at Reimer's heels at every step for a chance to snatch the number one job.
"That's the job of every goalie in the organization is to take the guy's job ahead of you," he concurred, stressing that competition in Toronto was no different anywhere around the league. "And when you're at the top your job is to stay on top of the mountain. That being said, James and I are really good friends; there's no animosity or back-stabbing or anything, [but] we both understand that the better we play the more we push each other, it's only going to pay off for the team as a whole. It's going to be friendly competition, but it's definitely going to be competition."
With an offseason goal of earning a spot with the Leafs presently on hold, Scrivens must direct his efforts to a different cause, but one that will demand he replicate or even exceed the results of last year. His stock can only rise with more of the same. Down the road from the Air Canada Centre, Scrivens finds himself at Marlies training camp, back at Ricoh Coliseum as the starter for the Leafs American League affiliate, one that should be back in contention for the Calder Cup.
The NHL isn't calling just yet, but make no mistake, this goaltender knows he has much to prove.
"I feel like I can be successful at the next level," he said. "I'm just waiting for an opportunity and whenever that comes I have to be ready."