The Maple Leafs enjoyed their annual charity golf outing , the Leafs and Legends event at Rattlesnake Point in Milton, Tuesday and since this was the first event in months the media questioning was devoted to tried and true talking points.
There are no better go-to subjects than a potential goaltending snit – witness the goings on in Vancouver over the last few years – so the acquisition of Jonathan Bernier to challenge incumbent James Reimer promises to be on the front burner.
As well, there remains the spectre of the Game 7 meltdown in Boston, a 108-day-old calamity that is to this generation of Leaf fans what the Kennedy assassination was to baby boomers.
You can’t blame the media in this; they’re just asking what any fan would but just a few minutes into his season-opening question and answer session, Leaf coach Randy Carlyle sounded exasperated.
First, he addressed the Boston loss.
“In life, like anything else, when you get knocked down you’ve got to pick yourself back up. We got knocked down, that’s the reality, it happened (but) it can’t affect us the rest of our lives. It’s about moving forward,” he said.
So when Carlyle was asked to dwell a little bit more, he sounded a tad exasperated.
“You can’t spend three months on what happened in Game 7,” he said. “The issue for us is what’s going to happen going forward. We’re going to turn the page and that’s our job. The group has changed from that Game 7. It’s not the same people.”
True enough. One third of the roster (Clarke MacArthur, Mikhail Grabovski, Matt Frattin, Ryan Hamilton, Ryan O’Byrne, Leo Komarov, Mike Kostka and Ben Scrivens) has turned over. The Leafs have added the marquee free agent of the summer, David Clarkson, nabbed a proven winner in former Chicago centreman David Bolland and brought in Los Angeles Kings backup Jonathan Bernier.
The netminding issue has morphed radically over the past 12 months.
A year ago it was “is James Reimer a number one goaltender?”
Then came “is James Reimer a playoff goaltender ?”
The latest incarnation asks how Reimer will tolerate the upgrade in competition from Scrivens to Jonathan Bernier?
When asked whether he explained the move to Reimer – it was the second time through on the Reimer story, as well – Carlyle, who wears his old school sensibilities openly and proudly, demurred.
“I think you guys make way, way too much out of acquiring a player,” he said. “Do we talk to every defenceman when we get a defenceman? We added the goaltender based on adding strength to the position. I don’t know how I can put it any plainer, any simpler. We have a goalie we liked. We added another one. Does that push the other guy out?
“If I am going to add another defenceman am I going to go talk to Dion Phaneuf? Come on.”
For his part, Reimer doesn’t sound too concerned and said he had a nice chat with Leafs GM Dave Nonis this summer.
“I didn’t expect anyone to explain things to me,” he said and added he would leave it to the media to handicap who was the starter and who the alternate which they surely will.
“I’m sure people will talk about different things but in my mind I was a guy that got brought us to the playoffs and hopefully will be the guy who brings the Cup here this year,” Reimer said.
Reimer did enjoy a good regular season and shone at moments in the playoffs but the Leafs were 17th in the league in regular season goals against last season. That said, only six teams had a better save percentage than the .917 rate the Leafs, along with three other clubs, delivered last year.
To continue to progress the Leafs need to be among the best defensive teams in the league. Excluding the goaltending from that conversation would seem a tad negligent.
After four years behind Jonathan Quick in LA, Bernier said he looked forward to the competition.
“I’m very happy to end up in Toronto,” he said. “They want to give me a chance to prove what I can do. That’s what I’ve been waiting for. Now I’ve just got to take it.”
Centre Nazem Kadri and defenceman Cody Franson are unsigned restricted free agents. Both were at the tournament. Neither spoke to the media.
Dion Phaneuf and Phil Kessel are entering their final years before potentially hitting the market as unrestricted free agents. Kessel did not speak but is on record in the Toronto Sun as saying he doesn’t want to negotiate in the season.
Phaneuf, meanwhile, is open to talking whenever and says his last deal in Calgary was inked with the season underway. For the record, it was in February, 2008 and he was traded to the Leafs two years later.
Rookie camp runs from Thursday to Sunday. The Leafs open training camp Sept. 9, play their first pre-season game Sept. 15 and open the season October 1 in Montreal.