Always the happy-go-lucky optimist, James Reimer is heading into the season as a backup for the second year in a row. Sure, Carlyle and co have said that it’s a competition between their 1 and 1A (Jonathan Bernier and Reimer, respectively), but we all know which one of the two is thrown all over Leafs marketing efforts as the saviour.
Still, Reimer is a good goalie, and a definite starter in the NHL – he proved that prior to last season. It just doesn’t look like that will happen again in Toronto.
In 36 games last year, Reimer put up a .911% save percentage, slightly lower than his career average of .914%, but a huge drop off from his amazing .924% in 2012-13.
We know that Bernier had a better year last year. Even though Reimer’s even strength save percentage was solid (.924%), Bernier’s was even stronger (.931%). While we use and value save percentage as the strongest metric for goalie performance, a huge reason why Reimer boasted a weak win-loss record (12-16-1) is quite interesting.
With Reimer in net, the Leafs only scored 1.6 goals per 60 minutes. With Bernier in net? 2.6 goals per 60 minutes. That’s a full goal more.
For a goalie that was criticized heavily last season, it seems like he’s not the only one to blame for the poor record.
all referenced stats via hockeyanalysis.com
Perception is reality, and the perception of the team, the league, and fans has made Reimer into a backup goalie. And that’s presumably where he will start this season.
For some reason, Reimer signed a two-year deal this past offseason at a modest $2.3 mil per year. With Bernier’s contract finishing up this year and likely to head to a discussion about a long-term deal at a high dollar figure, it doesn’t hurt to have a very strong #2 just in case something goes wrong in the negotiations. Not that the Leafs will trust Reimer enough to let him be the starter.
That said, the Leafs boast one of the best goalie duos in the league and it’s hard to remember a time where the goaltending situation was less of a worry than it is now.
Probably that of a backup that will get a decent amount of starts, but there is always a chance Bernier struggles or has an injury and Reimer gets an extended look as a starter. Also worth considering: Reimer getting traded to Winnipeg.
In short, worth a look in a deeper league.
While Bernier getting injured is not good, the ovation for Reimer after an up-and-down campaign was a real feel good moment.