From the second that it was rumored Roberto Luongo asked for a trade out of Vancouver to this very moment, his name has been linked to the Toronto Maple Leafs. It was expected that a deal could get done before the lockout started. During the lockout a deal was rumored to have happened. All that was needed was a new CBA for the two teams to make it official. Wrong again. Brian Burke got fired during training camp, a move that many thought happened because of his unwillingness to trade for Luongo. It was speculated that his replacement Dave Nonis would acquire the goalie he traded for in Vancouver before the start of the season. Also, believe it or not, didn’t happen.
We are now three weeks into the shortened 48 game season and it would appear the Maple Leafs are losing in this game of chicken.
The Leafs are currently 7th in the East, with a 6-5-1 record. Considering the injuries they have had to deal with, things are going quite well. The Toronto bubble however, is going to burst any second now. It almost always does.
For one thing, special teams are just as bad with Randy Carlyle as they were with Ron Wilson. They currently rank 25th in the league on the power play and 24th in penalty killing. It’s a miracle they could sustain their barely better than .500 record for these first eleven games.
Another thing playing in the Leafs favour is the level of their competition. The combined winning percentage of the teams they have played to this point is a meagre 44%. Only four of their eleven games have been against playoff teams as well. It really does explain how they’ve stayed afloat to this point with such average goaltending and horrible special teams.
The Canucks in the meanwhile have proven that there is no goalie controversy. They are first in their division and Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo have led the way. They have a combined .924 save percentage and a 2.09 GAA. If there’s a goalie controversy, these two clearly haven’t heard about it. They have done nothing but prove they can share the workload and it’s a non issue.
The urgency for this trade now lies with Toronto. James Reimer and Ben Scrivens haven’t been as bad as expected, but they’ve hardly played like starters. They’ve combined for a .905 save percentage and a 2.655 GAA. Scrivens was the Leafs starter on opening night, but lost the starting job as quick as he gained it. Reimer has now played eight games to Scrivens’ four.
This roster is playing over their heads. Their special teams are both ranked in the mid 20’s and their goals for and goals against are both in the mid teens. This is not the recipe for success.
The Maple Leafs are surviving the easy part of their schedule, but do you think this roster will hold up in March when ten of their fourteen games are against teams currently in playoff positions? Five of those games are against the Bruins and Penguins. What do they do when the Rangers find their stride, or when the Flyers get healthy?
The Leafs are proving they can win with injuries to their blue line. When some of those defensemen get healthy, they will more than be able to afford to ship a good one out of town. Maybe Jake Gardiner, whose only played two games this season due to concussion issues. No matter who they part with, there isn’t any player on the Leafs more valuable than Luongo. As the age old saying goes: whoever gets the better player wins the trade. There isn’t any player on Toronto better than Luongo. Especially where goalie is concerned. If Dave Nonis wants to keep this team in playoff contention, the time to pull the trigger on this well overdue trade is coming soon. It could be the move that brings hockey to the Air Canada Center in mid April.
You can follow J.D. Burke for more hockey commentary, stats, tweets, etc. @WeveGotTwins and find his blog at http://www.WeveGotTwins.blogspot.ca