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Don't Worry About The Monster

Monday, 01.24.2011 / 2:59 PM ET / Mike Ulmer's Blog
By Mike Ulmer  - Mapleleafs.com commentator
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Don\'t Worry About The Monster

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What is called for here is a “conditioning assignment.”

Specifically, Jonas Gustavsson needs a conditioning assignment and while he may be entirely healthy in body (you never know with athletes), his brain deserves a reprieve.

The 26-year-old Swede, despite the present optics, remains a centerpiece of the team’s plans.

He was quite good in patches during his rookie year, but regressed in his sophomore season. Gee, you never hear that.

Gustavsson, Jean Sebastien Giguere and greenhorn James Reimer are on board for the Leafs trip to Carolina and then Tampa on Tuesday. It’s a wonder there was room in the plane.

Gustavsson will probably not play in the two contests prior to the All-Star Game in favour of Giguere and Reimer.

Now, what the Leafs must do is find a way to land that precious conditioning assignment that would allow them to demote Gustavsson without having to pass him through waivers.

This would be all to the good. What Gustavsson needs is a place to regain his game and maybe his perspective. That’s why God gave us farm teams.

At this time next year, Gustavsson and Reimer will be tending goal for the Leafs. Gustavsson will be in his third season and handling the bulk of games. If Reimer will nudge anyone out, it will likely be the 33-year-old Giguere. Who knows, Gustavsson and Reimer might be feeling heat from towering Finn Jussi Rynnas.

That’s the way it goes: two goalies on the NHL team and another half a dozen or so aspirants and draftees breathing down their necks.

What Gustavsson would benefit from is some time being the hunter instead of being the guy with the target on his back. He needs one step back to take two forward.

The Leafs are 22nd in goals against. How much of that can you lay on Gustavsson?

Who cares?

Yes, he has been up and down but the team around him has been spottier still. This business of assigning blame for a poor defensive record is hopelessly muddled, the fate of the goalie, defence and even the forwards are hopelessly intertwined.

Giguere is 33 and a Stanley Cup winner. He has outplayed Gustavsson, especially of late.  Giguere’s .900 save percentage and 2.71 goals against average are significantly better than Gustavsson’s figures. The veteran is 9-8-3, the kid is 6-13-2.

All those things are fine…for now.

Reimer, four years younger than Gustavsson has completed a stratospheric rise 22-month rise from the East Coast League to the NHL, becomes the new star on the rise.

Gustavsson will be given every chance to establish himself in his third season, which was the plan all along.

Giguere, soon to be a 34-year-old goalie with a history of groin injuries will probably not prompt reckless pursuit.

Don’t worry about Jonas Gustavsson. Things will get better…about the same time the team does.

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