Yes, you read the headline correctly. In a radio appearance yesterday, beleaguered Toronto Maple Leafs’ goaltender James Reimer – once the toast of town, he’s quickly become one of its biggest goats thanks in good part to head coach Randy Carlyle – came to the defence of Carlyle.
Reimer’s defence of Carlyle was a surprise to many Leafs fans and media observers alike given their oftentimes rocky relationship last season. There was the stare down incident of course, but who can forget Carlyle’s infamous lukewarm endorsement of Reimer following a 3-2 loss to the Detroit Red Wings in March?
If that wasn’t enough to spell doom for Reimer, the Leafs and Carlyle in particular seem to prefer Jonathan Bernier as the team’s goaltender of the future. This has left Reimer’s exact place on the team unclear.
“I felt that the door was closed there. It felt like things were heading in a different direction,” Reimer told The Jeff Blair Show. “Over the course of the summer, things have changed. Obviously signing the new contract, things have taken a 180 [degree turn] from there. I’m excited to come back. It’s not a case where I wanted to leave but I thought that things were kind of done there.”
Heading into next season, Reimer expects a new opportunity to compete for the top job. He hopes to displace Bernier and reclaim the title he held between 2011-2013.
“I was told there is a definite opportunity,” he added. “That’s the mindset I’m coming in with – to really take advantage of the opportunity that’s going to be given and really earn that No. 1 spot. I learned a lot [last year] about expectations and about to handle expectations and how to handle different types of adversity and pressure.”
Based on past performance, we know Reimer can challenge for and carry the top job. It’s just matter of getting the opportunity to complete, which he now appears to hold. We won’t know for sure, however, until training camp and the 2014-2015 season actually start.
The radio appearance followed Reimer’s new deal with the club worth $4.6 million over the next two seasons. Hopefully, this is a positive development in the Reimer-Carlyle relationship. Toronto could certainly use two top goaltenders who have the confidence and backing of their head coach.