James Reimer is one of my favourite Leafs, but it doesn’t take a hater to note that Reimer is going through a rough stretch right now. After last night’s performance against Tampa Bay, Reimer is currently playing through his worst 20 games in his NHL career, save percentage-wise.
The bad news is that with Jonathan Bernier’s injury and Bernier’s own struggles in the early part of the 2014 calendar year, Reimer has had a multitude of opportunities to take back the net. Based on performance this season, there isn’t a great argument to keep James in the net ahead of Bernier once Bernier returns. Reimer was great in relief of Bernier against Los Angeles, but he’s been in net for three consecutive regulation losses.
It’s not awful of course, but Reimer’s .910 save percentage on the season puts him 30th out of 44 qualified goaltenders on NHL.com. To win, the Leafs need excellent goaltending, and Reimer’s numbers have been average this season. Reimer’s .924 even strength save percentage paints a better picture, but he’s still well back of Bernier’s .935.
Worst is that Darren Dreger speculated on the panel last night that Reimer will ask for a trade this summer. Scott Lewis at the Score suggested that “Reimer is a very good goaltender, but he’s going to be someone else’s very good goaltender.”
You begin to get the sense that regardless of how Reimer plays from here on out, the Leafs will be going to trade him this summer, and that’s a bit of a shame. It’s unfortunate that Reimer has waited until this crucial point in his career to struggle, but his numbers over 20 games have probably been a better indicator of noise than skill.
Nate Silver’s book The Signal and the Noise had a chapter that discussed the stock market in depth, and how inefficiently people try to predict the market:
Gallup and other polling organizations periodically survey Americans on whether they think it is a good time to buy stocks. Historically, there has been a strong relationship between these numbers and stock market performance—but the relationship runs in the exact opposite direction of what sound investment strategy would dictate. Americans tend to think it’s a good time to buy when price-to-earnings ratios are inflated and stocks are overpriced. The highest figure that Gallup ever recorded in their survey was in January 2000, when a record high of 67 percent of Americans thought it was a good time to invest. Just two months later, the NASDAQ and other stock indices began to crash. Conversely, only 26 percent of Americans thought it was a good time to buy stocks in February 1990—but the S&P 500 almost quadrupled in value over the next ten years.
It’s interesting because goaltenders tend to behave the same way as the stock market. If you’re in a fantasy hockey keeper league, you could make a killing by trading away good goalies and trading for struggling goalies, simply because fans genuinely expect good performance to continue without factoring in regression.
It’s testable. Yahoo has stored all the compiled results of goaltenders drafted in its fantasy hockey leagues from the start of the season. Some notable names, along with their average pick number, and league rank in save percentage:
- 6.5 – Tuukka Rask (3rd)
- 7.7 – Henrik Lundqvist (15th)
- 13.7 – Pekka Rinne (NR)
- 16.5 – Antti Niemi (22nd)
- 20.8 – Jonathan Quick (24th)
- 23.7 – Craig Anderson (31st)
- 26.8 – Sergei Bobrovsky (14th)
- 65.7 – Cam Ward (42nd)
- 115.7 – Josh Harding (1st)
- 136.8 – James Reimer (30th)
- 151.7 – Jonathan Bernier (7th)
- 168.1 – Ben Bishop (5th)
ESPN has a ranking of goaltenders compromising of their fantasy hockey statistics. Among its top 20 goaltenders, six of them: Cam Talbot, Ben Scrivens, Alex Stalock, Anton Khudobin, Martin Jones and Frederik Andersen, were not even among the 41 most-drafted goaltenders over at Yahoo.
Ultimately, nobody saw Ben Bishop coming this season, and Bishop may win the Vezina Trophy. A year ago, Sergei Bobrovsky, who was traded out of Philadelphia for nothing, caught fire and won the Vezina Trophy. Bobrovsky’s .932 save percentage and 2.00 goals against average have turned to a .919 and a 2.49 this season, which is still better than the .899 and 3.02 he posted his final year in Philly.
Nobody, especially hockey fans, really know what to expect from goaltenders. Reimer’s previous worst 20-game streak was followed up by a .918. 19 of those games came at the start of the 2013 season, his best season as a starter which came after he finished the 2012 season on a real low note.
Reimer’s best 20-game stretch? He posted a .942 between April 6 2013 and November 23 2013.
Reimer’s next 20 games would be his worst 20 games ever.
20 games don’t make a goalie.