The Beginning of the Reimer Era and What This Means for the Leafs
First off, I'd like to say thanks to everyone for letting me join the team. I hope you enjoy reading the content as much as I like putting it together.
The 2011-2012 season will see a Leafs team that looks very different than the team that took to the ice on opening night 2010. For one, the Leafs have seemingly found a savior in the crease named James Reimer to help lead them back to somewhere they have not been since 1967, the Stanley Cup Finals.
Reimer had a strong 2010-11 Season when he assumed the job as starting goaltender due to injuries to JS Giguere and Jonas Gustavsson. Reimer almost pulled the Leafs to the playoffs and probably saved Ron Wilson's job in doing so. Moving forward, it seems that James Reimer is the man in net.
Reimer will have to live up to a legacy of great goalies the Leafs had from the early 1990s to the 04-05 NHL Lockout. He's following the footsteps of people like Felix Potvin, Curtis Joseph and Ed Belfour. Luckily, with people like Andrew Raycroft, Vesa Toskala and JS Aubin in between, Reimer doesn't have the immense pressure on his shoulders of needing to be a superstar, rather, he just needs to be capable of playing his position.
This brings me to the point of this piece, what should Leafs fans expect from James Reimer. For one towards the end of last season, Reimer's glove hand was exposed as a weakness by many shooters, but Leafs fans should not fear, Reimer was probably fatigued as he played more games in 2010-11 (52 combined between AHL Marlies and NHL Leafs) then he had in any season since 2006-07 when he played 60 games for Red Dear of the WHL. Other than 06-07 and 2010-11, James Reimer has never played more than 45 games in a season at any level or combination of levels in a given year, because of that, fatigue should be considered as a reason for Reimer's late season struggles most notable during a 9 start stretch from Feb 24 to Mar 14 where Reimer gave up 3 or more goals in 7 of the 9 starts and in 3 of those 7, he allowed 5 goals.
Even through that set of struggles, Reimer finished the year with a .921 SV% which is still quite strong. To put that in perspective, 2010 Stanley Cup winning goalie Antti Niemi posted a .920 in 2010-11 and coveted 2011 UFA goaltender Tomas Vokoun posted a .922 SV%. But there's something more impressive, Even Strength Save Percentage (EVS%) is probably the best indicator of how good a goalie really is: James Reimer's EVS% was a whopping .933. To put that in perspective, there were only 2 goalies in the NHL this season to post a better EVS% than Reimer while making 30 or more starts, Tim Thomas .947EVS% and Roberto Luongo .934EVS%. Notice something, those guys are both Vezina Trophy nominees and they're playing for the Stanley Cup.
Now, will James Reimer replicate these numbers in 2011-12, only time will tell. But, that being said, James Reimer is, if handled correctly, a superstar goalie in the making. The Leafs have their future netminder. They have some pieces up front in Bozak, Kadri and on the blueline in Aulie, Schenn and of course the Captain, Dion Phaneuf. Now, with Reimer in goal, the Leafs are poised to take a giant step forward towards making the playoffs. This will be accented by the fact that Brian Burke has 2 first round draft picks on Draft Day AND the Leafs have quite a bit of Cap-Space to use on July 1 for UFA signings.
It's an exciting time to be a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs. There will be more to come as it develops.