Will Reimer rebound?

The Toronto Maple Leafs will seek to upgrade its goaltending this summer whether James Reimer returns to his rookie form in the final 15 games or not.

General manager Brian Burke has remained adamant on retaining Reimer as the goaltender of the future---reportedly shot down a deal that would have brought back a significant return at the trade deadline---so fans should not expect the 23-year-old netminder to be going anywhere anytime soon. Registering a .921 save percentage in his rookie season, Reimer’s .899 save percentage as a sophomore is reason for concern, but nothing to fret over---at least, not yet.

Sophomore slumps are nothing new in the National Hockey League. In fact, take a look at some statistics a few starting goaltenders had posted in their second NHL campaigns:

Marc-Andre Fleury

67 games

.906 SV%

2.83 GAA

Carey Price

52

.905

2.83

Jonathan Quick

72

.907

2.54

Tomas Vokoun

33

.904

2.78

Cam Ward

60

.897

2.93

Tim Thomas

66

.905

3.13

 

Here are some statistics from the same goaltenders but in their third NHL seasons:

Fleury

35

.921

2.33

Price

41

.912

2.77

Quick

61

.918

2.24

Vokoun

37

.910

2.44

Ward

69

.904

2.75

Thomas

57

.921

2.44

 

All of the goaltenders listed above struggled in their sophomore seasons, posting save percentages below the league-average of .910 (Thomas is a late-bloomer, however, and Vokoun’s sophomore season was in the 1999-00 season), but improved in both save percentage and goals-against-average in their third seasons.

Pertaining to Reimer, the tables above could indicate that the Morweena-native will post improved statistics next season. It could also mean absolutely nothing. Reimer certainly wouldn’t be the first goaltender to fall off the face of the earth after an impressive rookie campaign. And it’s worth noting that Reimer is a fourth-round draft selection, so he wasn’t expected to be an NHL starting goaltender.

Reimer’s statistics en route to the NHL, however, are certainly impressive:

-          .912 save percentage and a 2.77 goals-against-average in 177 WHL games.

-          .917 SV%, 2.85 GAA in 28 ECHL games.

-           .920 SV%, 2.44 GAA in 44 AHL games.

The Leafs’ porous defensive-zone coverage could certainly be a factor in Reimer’s downfall, but the team’s defensive woes can’t absolve all of the blame, as the team goaltending has posted an abysmal .873 save percentage in the last 14 games. Both he and Jonas Gustavsson haven’t been able to find consistency, and the lack of a veteran goaltender may prove to be the team’s demise if they miss the playoffs yet again; and that’s certainly the likeliest scenario.

It’s unlikely the Leafs retain pending unrestricted free agent Gustavsson past this season, so that’ll free up a spot to upgrade the team’s goaltending. Unless Burke decides to acquire a goaltender via trade, the top options in the free agent market are probably Josh Harding and Tomas Vokoun. Harding, however, only has 110 games of NHL experience (career .914 save percentage), so Vokoun would be the ideal choice for obvious reasons.

If Reimer rebounds next season, he can either battle for the starting position or split the workload. And if he falters yet again, at least there’d be a veteran goaltender capable of taking the reins.

You stay classy, TCL.

Follow me on Twitter @RonGuillet

Comments

George Prax's picture

I think he will. Like you said there are plenty of goaltenders who have tough second seasons. It's tough being a goalie in the NHL, yet alone at 23 and in Toronto no less. People just have to be patient with him. That said, they need a better back-up than Heart Attack Jack.