Can History Repeat Itself?

Heading into the 2009-2010 regular season, the Toronto Maple Leafs had an undisputed #1 goalie (Jean Sebastian Giguere), a back up looking to become a dependable NHL’er (Jonas Gustavsson) and an unassuming prospect with good stats and strong composure (James Reimer).

By this time everybody is aware of how the story unfolded. Giguere struggled with injuries and inconsistent play. Gustavsson was unable to take the reins, and if anything actually regressed. While Reimer emerged as one of the best goalies in the league the second half of the season. Frustratingly loyal to sub par goalies (Giguere and Gustavsson), the Leafs turned to Reimer only out of desperation. Since receiving that opportunity Reimer has never looked back, quickly becoming a key member to the Leafs future. 

Now, heading into the 2010-2011 regular season, the Leafs have an undisputed #1 (Reimer), a back up still looking to become a dependable NHL’er (Jonas Gustavsson) and an unassuming prospect with good stats and strong composure (Ben Scrivens). Much like Reimer Scrivens has done everything the Leafs have asked of him. 

Scrivens’ Path

In April of 2009 Brian Burke signed the All-American following an outstanding College career at Cornell University in which (excluding his 12 game freshman season, 2.30 GAA, .911 save %) Scrivens never posted a GAA over 2.02 or a save percentage below .930.

Assigned to the Reading Royals of the ECHL (a league in which a young James Reimer was a playoff MVP in 2009) at the beginning of last year, Scrivens had an outstanding start. With the Royals Scrivens posted a 2.23 GAA and a .938 save percentage while being selected to compete in the ECHL all-star game. Much like Reimer did for the Leafs, Scrivens became the default starter for the Marlies to finish the 2009-2010 season, due to the emergence of Reimer and a Jussi Rynnas injury. The first year pro was fantastic with the Marlies ranking seventh overall in the AHL in save percentage .924 and eleventh in GAA 2.33. 

What makes Scrivens such a strong goalie is his positioning. A committed disciple of Leaf goalie coach Francois Allaire, Scrivens uses his big frame (6’2” 192lbs) to stay in front of the puck. Having only seen Scrivens play in pre-season games this fall, I couldn’t help but notice how composed he was in between the pipes. In fact he looked identical to Reimer on the ice. 

Why Scrivens Over Gustavsson

I didn’t want to write this article in the height of the anti-Gustavsson era that Leafs nation went through last week. However, since “The Monster” has seemingly found his game (except when Kaspar Daugavins shoots) I wanted to express why Scrivens should be with the Leafs instead of his name is Jonas. My objective wasn't to dump all over Gustavsson. I just think that Scrivens is a better option at the moment as well as going forward.

The argument can be made that Scrivens did have good numbers in the AHL last season, but in Gustavsson’s five games with the Marlies he posted an outstanding stat line (1.14 GAA, .955 save %). Based upon this the theory may exist that Gustavsson was a better AHL goalie than Scrivens, therefore he most certainly will be a better keeper in the NHL. I disagree, Gustavsson is a flailer. His ability to make saves is great, but he is not as sound technically as Scrivens is. While Jonas may be able to make that spectacular stop, he is not able to read the play properly and stay composed between the pipes. Scrivens’ numbers may not match “The Monster’s”, but his game is suited to be successful in all leagues (illustrated by his consistent numbers in the ECAC, ECHL and AHL). Gustavsson can dominate in a league like the AHL where the forwards aren’t able to pass the puck around at an elite level, making it easier for him to read the play, yet struggle against more talented forwards (see his career stat line in the NHL 3.08 GAA and .897 save % in his NHL career). 

Being such a committed and strong disciple of Allaire also make Scrivens better suited to be with the big club everyday for practice. At 25 (two years older than Reimer), Scrivens is a mature prospect who has proven all that he can in the minors. Now, I agree with the argument that letting Scrivens dominate for the Marlies instead of sitting on the bench is better for his development, but he’s sitting on the bench now for the Leafs anyways. Wouldn’t it be better for the Leafs to allow this asset to experience the regular season? Isn’t Ron Wilson being just as stubborn sticking with Gustavsson this season as he was last year making Reimer watch games from the bench? 

At the end of this season both Gustavsson and Scrivens are free agents (the former a UFA, the latter an RFA). I find it hard to believe that Gustavsson will be part of this Leafs organization next September. With this injury to Reimer the time is now to see what you have in the all-american kid. Who knows, considering he is so similar to Reimer, Scrivens may take his opportunity and never look back.   

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4 Comments

George Prax's picture

Great article. Producing good goaltending prospects (at least in their rookie years lol) seems to be a staple of the leafs players development. Curious to see if Scrivens can keep the streak going.

Marco Perruzza's picture

Considering that other than Reimer these prospects were all free-agent signings, Burke has bought himself some great assets. I will be shocked if Gustavsson is here next season, and I think the Leafs know what they have in Scrivens. I assume (hope?)that they are showcasing Gustavsson in a hope that he rediscovers his mojo (he has), increasing his trade value.

Brian Bock's picture

Scrivens was a fantastic collegiate goaltender, though for us "Big Red" fans, there were always games and goals which would leave us wondering how he would fare at the next level. It is clear that goalie guru Francois Allaire has done wonders for Scrivens' consistency, which has helped him adjust at each new level of competition. While I don't know that Ben has the raw talent that many other prospects do, he does have a style of game that lends itself to backstopping a team built around playing solid defense. Wish he didn't go to the Leafs so it would be easier to root for him... but I root for all Cornell players to find success at the NHL level. Ben's former teammate Colin Greening is making some noise playing with Jason Spezza over in Ottawa so far this season - wonder if Ben responds the same way should he get the chance. Great article.

Marco Perruzza's picture

Goalies tend to mature at a later age, so hopefully Scrivens has been able to eliminate those bad goals from his game. As I said above, I'd be shocked if he isn't the back up next season, so why not see how he handles the pressure for a couple of games? I agree with your point on style, structure and composure has replaced skill and athleticism for modern stoppers. Thanks for the feedback!