Not a Statue in Sight
Let's get the nonsense out of the way immediately.
Checked out newspapers, websites and TV highlight reels this morning. Not a single person mentioned "building a statue" in honor of James Reimer, let alone putting him in the Hall of Fame or starting to prepare a screenplay on his life in hockey.
Did read and hear and see lots of mentions about how Reimer got his first NHL shutout last night against Carolina, about how he has played very well now that the Leafs have gone through pretty much every other goaltending option, about how he's a nice young man and how nine games do not a goaltending career make.
So when you hear Ron Wilson start whining about how media coverage in Toronto is ruining Reimer, about how people over-react to everything, remember that wasn't the case at all, that instead most people have a measured response to watching a fourth round pick become the Leafs best goalie at the moment.
When you hear Wilson start blaming "you guys" in the media, take it for what it is, the coach who can't handle the heat in Toronto blaming the people he blames for everything.
Second, two wins, and yet not a mention about how the Leafs are going to win the Stanley Cup this spring. Or next spring. Or the spring after that.
So when the clever folks among you snort "Start planning the parade" when the Leafs come up in conversation, remember nobody in the media and only the silliest of fans are saying such a thing.
Seems people are pretty grounded about the prospects for this hockey club around here.
A few more hockey thoughts before heading off for eight days in the sun.
Just because Reimer looks pretty darn good right now doesn't mean its time to trade Jonas Gustavsson. Patience, people. Don't forget, there were so many in the fall who thought the Leafs had one of the best bluelines in the NHL and imagined part of that defence corps could be traded away to bring back something big in return. What you want to do is build depth, and right now the Leafs appear to be building depth in goal and on defence. Hold on to as much of that depth and add to it.
Sure looks like Phil Kessel wasn't bothered one tiny bit by being taken last in the all-star draft. In his first two games back, he's been the most dynamic player on the ice for either team. While I understand there are those that have already decided that Tyler Seguin (eight goals, nine assists in his first 50 NHL games) and a player to be selected likely to be selected in the top 10 of this spring's NHL draft already add up to more than Kessel, I'm still thinking its worth waiting to see how this turns out. Players in Toronto seem to get either over-rated or criticized to the point their value is barely recognized, but the truth on Kessel is that he is a winger with explosive speed who can do things offensively that only a small number of players in this league can do.
It doesn't make him Rocket Richard. But he's also more than nothing, which is what many would have you believe the Leafs got in that deal.
Next, interesting to see the Edmonton Oilers have slipped into dead last again. Guess they've got their sights set on Gabriel Landeskog, likely the top pick in the June entry draft. But let's make a date for Jan., 2014. Only then, really, will we have any real evidence on whether the Oilers are doing their rebuild correctly or whether Brian Burke has done a better job with different ideas in Toronto. Like the Kessel trade, you're just going to have to wait and let this play out. In Edmonton, I see Taylor Hall with a good chance to be a 35-40 goal scorer in the NHL, a couple of exciting prospect in Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi and then a bunch of holes that need to be filled by a team that is rated the second least attractive club to be part of in the NHL in a recent survey by NHL players.
The Oilers may indeed be on course for a championship. But there's tons of work to do, and right now, they're significantly worse than the Leafs, who have a similarly youthful team with more kids (Keith Aulie, Nazem Kadri, Brad Ross, Jerry D'Amigo etc) possibly on the way. Edmonton has high hopes for Curtis Hamilton, Tyler Pitlick and Anton Lander, among others. It's impossible to forecast right now which team has the better kids, although Hall is certainly the top blue-chipper in either organization. That said, the gulf that some would have you believe exists between the rebuilding approach of the Oilers and the Leafs is theoretical, at best. The St. Louis Blues have gone about their business in the same way as the Oilers, including picking defenceman Erik Johnson first overall in '06, and right now their rebuilding efforts are barely ahead of Toronto's.
Fact is, whether you're talking the Oilers, Leafs or Blues, nobody really knows which club is really on the right track. There are just too many variables.