James Reimer versus the World

It’s been a topic of conversation since Dave Nonis made the
trade for Jonathan Bernier in 2013 after the Leafs’ collapse to the Bruins:
What did James Reimer do to deserve this?

When you look back at that trade, it’s tough to say the
Leafs were a team in need of a goaltender, and focusing their efforts on
upgrading in goal, along with some awful moves up front, make that summer
arguably one of the worst in the team’s history from a management standpoint.

But since then there’s been a bit of a war raging among Leafs
fans about the treatment of Bernier and Reimer from coaches, management, media, and even the skaters in front of them. 

For the second season in a row it looks as though Bernier is
clearly the better goaltender, but others would argue that this is simply
because Reimer hasn’t been given much of a chance, and when he has, the team
has left him out to dry, resulting in some poor results and dipping numbers. It’s
difficult to prove this without going through each of the goals allowed by
Bernier and Reimer over the season and deciding whether they were conceded
on quality scoring chances or not, and even this lends itself to a lot of
subjectivity.

Otherwise, the numbers aren’t too kind to Reimer right now. While
both he and Bernier face a lot of rubber (the Leafs are second-worst in the
league to Buffalo in terms of allowing shots), Bernier’s numbers are clearly much
stronger.

Everyone talks about a 1A and 1B goaltender situation in Toronto, as opposed to a clear starter and backup, but
the Leafs aren’t getting 1B goaltending consistently, or at least not this year. 

Reimer has had some
shining moments, but this season his overall body of work (which, admittedly, is small) isn’t impressive.

reimscrop

(war-on-ice and NHL.com)

Above is just a quick look at the numbers for both goalies this season. The team does allow a slightly greater number of shots-against per 60 minutes both overall and at even-strength when Reimer is in the net, but he’s taken a dive in save-percentage in each case, and that .903 at evens actually ranks him 39th of 46 goaltenders who’ve appeared in ten games or more. Ugly.

Again, it’s not a lot to go on, considering we’re not even in the second-half of the season, but to say Reimer has struggled so far isn’t “picking on him”, it’s true. Tee-shirts and Transformers logos don’t change that. 

Another thing that’s true is the Leafs are a garbage possession-team and I think this is where a lot of these topics veer off course into a war between two or more sides. The minute you point out a flaw in a well-liked player, everything shifts back to a conversation about how the Leafs can’t keep the puck out of their own zone because they’re incredibly weak defensively and have been for a while. 

Yes, everyone knows that. We’ve been living it for three years now. 

But both can be true. Jake Gardiner can make a few boneheaded plays and still have skill to burn, Tyler Bozak can be money on breakaways but a trainwreck in his own zone, and poor puck-possession from the team as a whole does not absolve Reimer or Bernier from criticism for sub-par performances. It just so happens that the bad outings have been few and far between for Bernier, thus earning him trust from coaches and likely teammates as well. Try not to take it too personally, the world isn’t out to get James Reimer.

  • Corno4

    If you take out the that poor Nashville game and a few other blowouts then Reimer’s SV% this year is not that bad at all.

    Also Bernier is injury prone and not a dependable work horse of a goalie like Reimer is.

      • The Craig

        We have one shutout, a 10 shot night for Bernier. Reimer gets the same tough games, has stolen games, doesn’t get pulled. In the tuesday night massacre, St. Bernard was pulled after 3 goals, but Reimer was allowed to stay in for the next 6, the same number he allowed the night before in Buff, when he should have been pulled, but RC was saving the golden boy for the home game. He was not good during those 27 hours, but not one Leaf was, including Bernier. Then after that, he doesn’t hardly play at all, except for 26 sv periods against the Hawks. I’d like to see the coaches give Reimer the same starts and the same confidence. He’s always had to look over his shoulder, Kipper, Luongo,then after being the only man in a decade to drag them into the playoffs, Bernier. Sv% is subjective too! If all the shots come from outside the slot, I’d win the odd game in the NHL, scoring chances are also in the eye of the beholder. I see a lot from both goalies of 2nd and third chances in the crease, this could be rebound control, or it could be that the teams player should be in a seated position when he’s whacking at the puck in the crease. I’m guilty of just using my eyes and relying on the experience of watching too much hockey on the TV to see a huge difference between the 2 goalies. To me and my lying eyes, Bernier is not head and shoulders above Optimus, they’re about the same and Reimer is bigger, can probably handle more minutes. I know gm 7, but that can’t all lay at the feet of Reimer, if it wasn’t for him, there is no gm 7. When Bernier gets us to the playoffs and wins a round, I will concede.

  • CMpuck

    You know how Grant Fuhr had thing thing where he’d stand on his head when necessary even in a 5-4 game? Well James soooo doesn’t have the that. He a game or two where he is lights out great, then he’s a sive his next few starts.

    Quality backup? Perhaps but he’s officially a distraction. I see no pressing need to resign him.

    • The Craig

      I can’t speak for everyone, but when I watch the games I see the actual goals. When all I watch is the highlights, I see the actual goals. Yes, the last two games specifically have seen an inordinate number of screens and deflections go against Reimer. However I don’t think you can just say: Reimer sees more screens and deflections over all. Anecdotal evidence and small sample size etc etc

  • Here’s the thing. I think that Reimer would be a decent starting goaltender if given more games to play but Bernier is still clearly better. Bernier is elite (or at least has looked elite last season and so far this season). I would compare Reimer’s ability to that of Lehtonen or Bishop if played as a starting goaltender while I would rate Bernier near the top of the league.

  • The Craig

    Well said. Can’t argue with anything in this article. I would suggest that Reimer, were he given a larger body of work and more regular playing time, is better than his numbers this season. Still, pretty clear who the better goalie is.

    One thing : can we stop with the whole 1A 1B thing? Who’s kidding who here, Bernier plays 90% of the games. Reim only gets in back to backs or 3 in 4 nights. Walks like a duck. Quacks like a duck. Looks like a number one tender to me.