TLN Player Profile: G James Reimer

Let’s imagine, for argument’s sake, that everyone reading this article is a Leafs fan. 

Chances are, that means that you – the reader- clicked on this article with some pretty strong feelings about James Reimer. After all, he is a part of maybe the most incomprehensibly controversial goaltending tandem in the NHL. 

Some fans are team Carlyle; they feel let down by James Reimer, who was pretty much described as just ‘okay’ by his former coach during a disastrous 2013-2014 late season stretch. Other fans have irreverent faith in Optimus Reim, staunchly insisting that he faces harder shots, gets left out to dry by his teammates, and does it all without much complaint as the bona fide number two. 

However you feel about the 27 year old Manitoba native, though, he’s back for another season – so who is he, how does he play, and what role does he fill in the Leafs organization? 

ORIGIN STORY

Drafted in the fourth round of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft by the Leafs themselves, Reimer is a late-blooming product of the WHL. Three years with the Red Deer Rebels – racking up a shocking 60 starts in his post-draft season with the major junior club – Reimer has never played within another NHL organization’s system. 

In 2012-2013, Reimer split the net with fellow cusp-starter Ben Scrivens, and the two didn’t do half badly. He lost his potential starting role with the acquisition of Bernier the following summer, though, and things just haven’t seemed to go his way since. Where Reimer has been known to bail the team out in a handful of games before, he’s also partially responsible for the team’s complete collapse down the back stretch of the 2013-2014 season; by those numbers, it’s extremely hard not to hold a certain level of distrust for the team’s most tenured netminder. 

CAREER STATISTICS

Like most goaltenders who settle into a predominantly backup role throughout their careers (Mike Smith excluded, bless him), James Reimer’s stats are kind of all over the place – based on the number of games he’s played and the team he’s played behind, which both influence goaltenders with clear technical flaws more than players with seemingly fluid games. 

Reimer plays a more hybrid style of game than his current counterpart in net, Jonathan Bernier. He relies on technical variety and tracking his rebounds to stop shots rather than exclusively a butterfly-based stance, but sometimes trouble tracking the puck up close leaves him looking weak in both second saves and in glove reactive saves. It’s not that he has a weak glove hand, but his ability to follow the play after making the initial save is below where it would be for a tier one starter. He’s slower to seal his crease than Bernier, but plays a safer game in the net (sometimes almost to his own detriment when he backs himself too far into the net) and uses his size well. 

WHAT TO EXPECT

Over at In Goal Mag, Paul Campbell broke down what the numbers say about the age-old Bernier vs. Reimer debate – and it’s not much of a surprise to see that Bernier comes out on top. From a purely technical standpoint, the French Canadian starter has a bit of an advantage over his backup; while sometimes the raw data gives us trouble determining which one of the two breaks away as the better option in Leafs Land, a closer look suggests that Reimer is best suited in the role he’s in now. 

It’s not reasonable to expect Reimer to put up the godawful numbers he did last year, because it’s going to be very hard for the team to do that poorly in front of him again. Players were being misutilized under Carlyle, the whole team kind of turned their backs on the year by January, and Reimer was stuck playing behind that team – it’s hardly a surprise to see his numbers dip, because the same thing happened to Bernier. He should do better this season. 

Reimer has historically had some problems with rebound control, sending shots back out into plays that he’s less capable of tracking effectively. When the play starts to crowd the net, Reimer’s ability to follow the puck – especially when he’s making a second or third save – significantly diminishes; that makes him a goaltender who’s probably unlikely to ‘bail’ the team out of many games when they can’t clear their own zone. 

That being said, though, Reimer’s game has a certain level of consistency about it – and he’s less reliant on butterfly-first goaltending like Bernier, which ups his likelihood of remaining healthy throughout the year. His glove hand still needs a little work and his lateral movement lacks some of the fluidity of Bernier’s, but his talent level is more than capable of handling a moderate backup workload. If Bernier gets injured (or potentially traded), you’ve got a backup who’s going to win you some games. 

Plus, he has a SIIIIICKKKK mask. 

MILESTONES

  • Didn’t play organized hockey until he was 12
  • Stood in net for the 2011 IIHF World Championship, representing Canada
  • Led the Leafs to the team’s first playoff appearance since 2004 (2013 post-season, lost in seven games to the Boston Bruins in the first round)

HIGHLIGHTS

Come on, as if 2013 wouldn’t be used as the Ultimate Reimer Highlight. 

Oh, the days. 

  • Gary Empey

    BERNIER may have trouble hanging on to his given not earned #1 goalie job if he doesn’t stop letting in soft goals more than occasionally if you go by last year..and his so call performance of last night against the sabres..

    • TGT23

      I don’t think Bernier has anything to worry about.

      Not from a .909 SV% goalie (last two years) who lost his starting job and never since has played good enough to win it back, anyway.

      Bernier earned his spot by being better than his backup by a not small margin. Stats prove this.

      So, why should he be worried some future AHL goalie will take his job?

  • Gary Empey

    BERNIER may have trouble hanging on to his given not earned #1 goalie job if he doesn’t stop letting in soft goals more than occasionally if you go by last year..and his so call performance of last night against the sabres..

  • magesticRAGE

    When Riemer is on, he’s unbelievable. He’s able to shutout elite teams. Unfortunately though, he’s like #1 goalies, where he needs regular starts to stay sharp.
    What I don’t get though, for Riemer being a team first and great teammate, gets hung out to dry by his team so much? Bernier had his share too, but not too the same extent. Weird man.

  • SEER

    Last Season
    Bernier – .912 SV% /
    Reimer – .907 SV%

    Not much difference at all… Check out who had the most games with the most shots against.. and which starter had the load of the hardest shots against… –> Reimer.

    MON, 21 SEP 2015 MAPLE LEAFS @ SENATORS
    Reimer lets in 4 goals, on 24 shots

    MON, 21 SEP 2015 SENATORS @ MAPLE LEAFS
    Bernier lets in 1 goal, on 29 shots

    TUE, 22 SEP 2015 MAPLE LEAFS @ CANADIENS
    Bibeau lets in 1 goal on 14 shots
    Sparks stops 7 shots

    FRI, 25 SEP 2015 SABRES @ MAPLE LEAFS
    Bernier lets in 5 goals, on 32 shots….

    SAT, 26 SEP 2015 CANADIENS MAPLE LEAFS
    Reimer lets in 1 goal, on 21 shots…

    …………………………………
    TOTALS:

    Bernier: 6 goals.., on 61 shots.. 90.2 SV% //////
    Reimer: 5 goals.., on 45 shots… 91.1 SV%
    (*These sv% numbers are from nhl.com)

    So.. again… not much difference at all (yet Reimer is actually doing better, for those of you who base everything off of stats.)…. except that the team played stronger defense in front of Bernier on the first night, than Reimer.. and last night, they played the worst defense yet, in front of Reimer…

    Bernier is more hyped up from the media, than anything.. They are both pretty even.. and even the stats prove that… It’s only people who listen to everything the media says about them, that choose Bernier as being so much better.. Bibeau will be better than all of them in a few seasons.. Just wait and see.. MUCH higher ceiling..

    I did extended videos for both of them… Watch and compare them yourselves.. See who had more “tough” saves… in more games..

    JAMES REIMER 2014-15 EXTENDED HIGHLIGHTS

    —> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mntqJlZW7QE

    JONATHAN BERNIER EXTENDED 2014-15 HIGHLIGHTS

    —> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bgLUstsmKdo

    • TGT23

      GREAT JOB SEER!!!!! couldn’t agree more

      I have been saying all along that Bernier is not worth twice the wage of Reims and doesn’t deserve the Starter job has not blown Reims away in these last 2 seasons yet he is handed everything….

      I still beleive in Reims and I wish the team would wise up and get behind Reims and become a well oil machine,,,but than again who am I kidding…they say Bernier is more polished??/ whatever…

      GO REIMS GO….

  • Bill-Burford

    (1) Riemer also played under a goal coach who had him dropping to his knees every time someone crossed the blue line which did wonders for his stats.He never was and never will be a butterfly goaltender.

    (2)The leak of his wifes cell phone number and what ensued after would not help concentration levels,confidence or desire to play either.In fact I would not have blamed him if he had told Toronto to shove it.

    The fact that he is still here shows his desire to play here.Let him get back to playing regularly and you will find he’s not a bad goaltender at all.