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
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
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.
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.