I will admit that whenever the two teams you like or support get together and make a deal, it is always fun and interesting. This is especially true when they both go head-to-head during the season.
The bottom line of this trade is that the Los Angeles Kings had a small window in which to find the best deal for their top-notch buried goaltender Jonathan Bernier. Whether Toronto is the best fit or not, remains to be seen.
I wonder if the New York Islanders perhaps balked at giving up their young pieces such as Michal Grabner, Matt Martin, Josh Bailey just to name a few. And also, the same with the Edmonton Oilers with all the youth they've got stockpiled. In my opinion, those two teams are the real losers. When all is said and done, without a true #1 netminder, teams do not have much of a chance in the playoffs. A tandem of the aging Evgeny Nabokov and whoever else on Long Island and a duo of Nikolai Khabibulin and Devin Dubnyk are not going to get the job done. Without a true starting goalie, both of these teams could very well miss out on the top eight, even after a decent showing by the young Islanders this short season.
I guess the positive thing is that the Toronto Maple Leafs will not have to worry about the Islanders, Philadelphia or New Jersey when it comes to battle between netminders in the near future. I would be surprised to see the Flyers stand tall between the pipes with two proven failures and the Devils with a couple of solid but old goaltenders who may not have a whole lot left to offer, especially come playoff time. Martin Brodeur may have been the best goaltender in recent history in the NHL, but let's face it, his best times are well past him.
Another Toronto writer pointed out immediately after the trade that since the Ed Belfour and Curtis Joseph era, the Maple Leafs did not need to strengthen their goaltending. As I mentioned before in an earlier blog, I still think that a tandem of James Reimer and Ben Scrivens was good enough to get through the playoffs. Reimer did allow some bad goals, most specifically in overtime of game four, but the game seven third period collapse falls mostly on the shoulders of Carl Gunnarsson, Dion Phaneuf and perhaps a little on coach Randy Carlyle for not putting his best guys on the ice in the final minutes. Do not forget that without Reimer, the Leafs would have most likely been done in five games, not overtime of game seven. This is why I am still very skeptical of the trade.
The good thing about young Mr. Reimer is that he seems to be a very humble and hard working guy. Hopefully, with the acquisition of another solid young goaltender will only push him to be better and ultimately get to the Finals in the near future.
The only thing I can imagine what was going on in the head of GM Dave Nonis was the question of health when it comes to Reimer. Let's not forget the ugly concussion he had in October of the previous season and also the fluke knee injury after making a fairly routine save in a game during this short season. If that was the main reason for Nonis to go out an find another goaltender, then I am ok with it. Perhaps he did not see Ben Scrivens as a suitable #1, and I sort of see eye-to-eye with him on that. Scrivens will be a decent understudy to Jonathan Quick in LA and will also be able to give Quick some of the needed rest during an 82-game schedule. Plus, with the solid defensive structure of the Kings compared to a similar style, but a learning curve nonetheless under Carlyle in Toronto, Scrivens should be more than just a nice backup.
Now, moving over to the Kings side of the deal. I am glad they were able to wind up with Matt Frattin. I even mentioned his name in my previous blog and see him as a nice fit with the Kings.
In December of 2011, I recall the pretty game-tying goal Frattin scored against the Kings in Toronto, which was my first Maple Leaf game at the Air Canada Centre (plus it had to be against the Kings which I had been waiting to see all my life...call it a bucket list item!). Frattin is also a big kid, at 6 foot and weighing about 200 pounds. He can skate and has soft hands to be a solid playmaker alongside guys like Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar and Mike Richards. His game-winning goal in overtime against Buffalo in January is just the type of speed burst the Kings need to help overcome the Chicago Blackhawks.
But there is still plenty of work to be done with both teams. The extra cash from Toronto may be used to help resign Rob Scuderi, however I think it would be best to search for another speedy winger or two. Scuderi will need to accept a little bit smaller paycheck, but it may be worth sticking around a team that has a pretty good chance to win again.
Other guys the Kings could be taking a look at are Mason Raymond, Clarke MacArthur (who was a frequent line mate of Frattin in Toronto), Michael Ryder, and Viktor Stalberg whom I forgot to mention in the previous post, who I think would be a nice fit.
As of now, I am not going to speculate as to what in the world Nonis has up his sleeve. More reports are swirling around that the Leafs are making everyone available to trade, even captain Phaneuf. At first I thought the rumors for Bernier were just talk, but after it happened, and quite quickly, then it could be very fun new few weeks for Toronto hockey news. I just hope the pending roster additions and subtractions make sense for a young team going forward.
I will end with this, I mentioned in the previous post that I probably would not approve of a Bernier-to-Toronto deal. Two years ago I suggested that the Leafs could take a chance on acquiring Bernier, but that was well before Reimer came onto the scene. In the end, the Kings just got a little bit better without giving up anyone who helped get past the Blues and Sharks in the playoff run. Bernier did help the King mount a pretty successful regular season, but this Kings team must now be all about the playoffs and getting back to the Cup. The addition of Matt Frattin is a good step in getting back to that. The addition of someone like Raymond, Stalberg or someone else who can skate like the wind and has some offensive talent may be enough to see Brown and company hoist the Cup again next summer.
Whether the Maple Leafs are close to that, remains to be seen as to what Nonis and company figure out in the coming months. Or perhaps days after the abruptness of today's trade.
If all goes somewhat well with the Toronto offseason, then a possible date with Lord Stanley's Cup could be just a year or two away.
How big an if? ... We'll see.
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