Previously, Chemmy took a look at Nazem Kadri’s rookie season and came up with a list of comparables that put his season in a better light. His comparables certainly offered some optimism about Kadri’s future in the NHL. This season, he’ll have the opportunity to make a big impact on the Leafs’ future.
But what about James Reimer?
The mythology of the James Reimer has been written about extensively: his arrival at the nadir of the Leafs’ season on January 1st, the way he took the starting role by the horns, and the calming influence that his quiet confidence had on his teamates. If the Leafs had managed to turn their torrid second half into a playoff spot he would likely have evoked hockey’s King Arthur reborn to save the Leafs in their darkest hour. As it stands, he saved the team from giving up another top-five draft pick and is poised to begin the 2011-12 season as the Buds’ starting goaltender.
How will he fare? Well, anytime you are trying to project a young player it is wrought with unknowns but it seems doubly so with a goaltender. There is a history of goaltenders being flashes in the pan which will give Leafs fans something to worry about but what goalies can we really compare him to. I pulled a list of goalies that post save percentages between .912 and .930 in ther first year in their 21-23 year old season since the lockout. Turns out, it’s a pretty short list.
Anders Lindback fit the bill with his 2010-11 season. On The Forecheck gave him a grade of A for a season in which he stepped into the backup role and ensured that the Predators’ history in developing late round picks into contributing players continued. Unfortunately, that doesn’t give us much of a track record for seeing what level Reimer might reach.
Last year was pretty good for rookie goaltenders thrust into the spotlight. Sergei Bobrovsky also cracks the list as he compiled a strong season as the Flyers’ # 1. Of course, after the team overworked him and the Flyers admitted they should have handled him better leading up to an early playoff exit GM Paul Holmgren decided that he’d rather not find out what happens do these young goalies in their second season. So he signed Ilya Bryzgalov to one of the craziest deals of the summer.
King Henrik is probably the best case scenario for the Leafs. He was in his 23 year old season when he arrived in North America and has a career .918 save percentage which has propelled a deeply flawed New York Rangers squad in five of his six seasons in the NHL. Of course, for every best case scenario, there is a worst-case scenario:
A cautionary tale: Hannu Toivonen
Obviously, I’ve drawn upon a pretty small group of comparables. If I expand the criteria to include goalies that have posted the required save percentage but extend the timeline back to the 1993-94 season while requiring a minimum of 1700 minutes played and allow for non-rookies then we get 11 comparables. The new list includes goalies like Roberto Luongo, Carey Price, Jaroslav Halak, Martin Brodeur (HOORAY!) and…Patrick Lalime and Brian Boucher (DAMMIT!).
So hold onto your breath Leafs fans. While Reimer’s performance has him in some exalted company, he will need to ensure that his new, lighter frame is ready to handle the pressure of being the Leafs’ starter for the entire season if he doesn’t want his membership to be revoked.