Why James Reimer Deserves Better

As I’m sure everyone is well aware by now, on Sunday afternoon the Toronto Maple Leafs traded Ben Scrivens, Matt Frattin, and a second round pick to the Los Angeles Kings for their back-up goalie, Jonathan Bernier.

There are two ways we can look at this trade: we can see it as a trade for a back-up goaltender, in which case the price paid by the Leafs is far too high, or we can see it for what it more likely is: a trade for a goalie who is going to compete with James Reimer for (or perhaps just be handed) the starting role in net for the 2013-2014 season.
If the latter is true (and it seems like it is), this is a senseless trade that will improve the team marginally or not at all.
James Reimer has been one of the best things to happen to the Leafs in a long time. The team has a long history of failure at the goaltending position since the 2004-05 lockout, with names like Vesa Toskala, Andrew Raycroft, and Jonas Gustavsson leading them away from the playoffs for seven years  (and all that while Tuukka Rask was developing into a promising young starter for the Boston Bruins). The last time a goaltender the Leafs drafted actually played a game for the team was in 2009, when Justin Pogge (drafted in the 3rd round of  the 2004 draft) played seven games for the Leafs before being sent down to the Marlies and then traded to Anaheim for a conditional draft pick in 2011. 
Reimer joined the Leafs in 2011, after Jonas Gustavsson hit the injured reserve. He started off as a back-up for J.S. Giguere, but when he was given a chance to start he left Leafs’ coach Ron Wilson with no choice but to keep giving him playing time. Reimer had a .921 save percentage in 37 games that season, inspiring this classic, along with general optimism among Leafs fans about the future of the Leafs’ net for the first time in years. 
Unfortunately, Reimer sustained a concussion early in the 2011-12 season and missed a few months recovering. He struggled upon his return, posting a save percentage of only .900 throughout the season. Concerns about his future began to surface again, and the Leafs went into the lockout with a question mark in net. Trading for Luongo was an option, but Burke, Nonis, and the rest of Leafs management decided to stick with what they had. And it paid off.
2013 was the season we had all been waiting for. This year the Leafs finally had the above average goaltending they’d been lacking for so long.  Reimer posted a .924 save percentage in 33 games, which put him just outside the top ten in the league. He also had the best save percentage of any goalie that faced 30 shots or more per night on average.
Reimer (and the now departed Ben Scrivens, who played well when Reimer was out with a knee injury for a few weeks) dragged the Maple Leafs to the playoffs for the first time in nine years, and the team likely would not have made it to game seven against the Bruins without him. 
I’m not sure what more Leafs’ management could want from James Reimer. He has proven himself as an NHL starting goalie, and he now has the playoff experience that they seem to value so highly. While Bernier has the potential to become much more than a backup, it doesn’t make sense for the Leafs (who were already set at the goaltending position) to give up valuable assets to acquire him when those assets could have been used to bring in a much needed defenceman or centre.
  • MaxPower417

    I was reading on another blog how the leafs (and Reimer’s) advanced stats/Corsi are terrible and Bernier’s much better. Reimer is great human being but he benefited from puck luck (high leaf PDO). This season Reimer and leafs will regress but Bernier better advanced stats and lower PDO will get tested. It sure looks like Nonis is trying to improve the team but time will tell.

    • MaxPower417

      The Leafs fancy stats are abysmal but that only makes Reimer more impressive. He had a high SV% despite being on one of the worst possession teams in the league and facing more shots than others goalies as Emily points out. The Leafs high PDO was due to an unsustainably high SH% not SV% .

  • MaxPower417

    I agree, Reimer deserves better. He’s been solid on a team that’s tested him as hard as any goalie in the league gets tested in more than a few ways. Remember that late-season game against the Devils where Reimer played out of his mind? And remember when the Leafs openly pursued other goalies, ranging from Kiprusoff to Luongo? He’s put up with a lot and kept remarkably cool about it; I can’t remember ever hearing him badmouth the team.

    Sometimes I wonder if this isn’t just posturing from the new GM, who wants to put someone they chose in net and have them succeed.

  • MaxPower417

    Looks like we are trying the ol’ Bester/Wregget gambit.

    I also agree that Reimer deserves better treatment but I also believe, if there’s a goalie that can slough off the pressure, it’s him.

    I’m hesitant to make this argument but I believe that Reimer’s beliefs and his upbringing give him the strength and conviction to believe in himself and continue to play his game. I doubt the “competition” will make him up his game and, personally, I don’t think he has to. Well, maybe a little better rebound control.

    Reimer’s a solid guy, he’ll give us solid goaltending and, if Bester tries to go Bernier on him, he’ll pound him into the ground like a fencepost.

    Me? I’m gonna miss Matty Frattin…

  • MaxPower417

    From the tone of this article, someone might think Reimer was a friend of the Leafs, not an employee. If the GM doesn’t think Reimer is the goalie who can help take a team deep into the playoffs, what’s he supposed to do? Keep him as the No. 1 goalie to avoid hurting his feelings?

  • MaxPower417

    ” If the GM doesn’t think Reimer is the goalie who can help take a team deep into the playoffs,”

    What does he need to do? A guy who people complained about consistency constantly (like Reimer) and who apparently has the weakest glove hand ever (like Reimer) just won the Stanley Cup.

    Does Reimer need to win the Vezina before he can be considered good enough? Or are we going to try and replace him with every available goalie?

    They should really just get rid of him if they think he’s that bad.

  • MaxPower417

    Reimer deserves a chance to keep his job by out-performing Bernier. He is a professional.

    His two injuries also proved the value in having more than one goalie who can be a starter.