Reimer Keeps It Close As Leafs Lose


Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Over the last few months I’ve had a weird case of déjà vu whenever James Reimer happened to be the starter for the Maple Leafs.

It was an odd feeling that only existed once Bernier became the very clear cut number one.

Is James Reimer the new Trevor Kidd?

For those of you who don’t remember, Trevor Kidd was the Leafs backup in 2002-03 and 03-04. He played only 34 games over those two seasons backing up Hall of Famer Ed Belfour. He finished his tour in Toronto going 12-15-4, which while far from great isn’t horrific numbers for a backup goalie.

Kidd is an interesting case because he came to Toronto to try to salvage his once promising career. He had broken in with the Flames who drafted him eleventh overall in 1990. His record in Calgary was 71-65-26, which again isn’t great, but was good enough for Kidd to displace Mike Vernon and help capture two Pacific Division titles in a row. By the time Kidd was gone the Flames had begun seven years in a row without going to the playoffs.

So Kidd was okay, he wasn’t going to steal you any playoff rounds but if you put a good team with him he’d do alright if you didn’t have a better option. After stops in Carolina and Florida removed any option of Kidd being a legitimate number one, he was trying to prove his worth as a backup when he got to Toronto.

Toronto had a pretty good team then to. Both years the Leafs finished second in the Northeast division and had mid 40 win seasons. For comparison purposes this year’s Leafs are at 36 wins with 12 games to go…so if they win eight of those they’d be roughly on par. Suffice to say the Leafs were a pretty good team.

But despite being a good team and despite the fact that Kidd tended to only play against the worst teams or on back-to-backs, there was a real feeling that anytime Kidd was in net, the Leafs would lose. If they won, they won in spite of Kidd.

Now there’s something to that. In his first season Kidd had a 3.10 gaa and a .896 sv%. The next season was worse, with a 3.26 gaa and .876 sv%. Those are bad to very bad numbers. But in his defence Kidd was a clear backup. Belfour was the undisputed starter and Kidd only got playing time on rare occasions.

The Leafs at that time, for whatever reason, seemed to play drastically worse in front of Kidd too. Whether Kidd just wasn’t liked, or his teammates thought with him in net they would lose the game anyways, whatever the reason – whenever Kidd was in net the Leafs played terrible.

Which brings us to James Reimer.

Reimer has fallen on tough times and has similar numbers to Kidd. While this seasons .913 sv% is far higher than what Kidd ever had (because Reimer is a far superior goalie to Kidd) his 3.21 gaa is right in line.

Since January, Reimer is 3-5 with a .894 sv%. He’s also played in parts of three other games, getting pulled once and coming in after Bernier was pulled twice. Now we’re sounding a lot more like Kidd.

Now it’s not all his fault, as since January in full games he’s faced an average of 35 shots per game. Needless to say, that’s a lot. Kidd faced shots in the mid to low 20’s.

Most of the time though, Reimer’s detractors feel he’s the one hurting the team.

Last night he made 28 saves on 31 shots. The team played awful defence, gave up a bunch of 2-on-1’s and yet it’s Reimer’s fault? The three goals were scored on a flukey bounce after Reimer made the save on Nyquist, who was on a breakaway, a great shot by Nyquist after he had blown by Ranger and again had a free shot, and a two on one.

Justin Bourne has an excellent systems analyst of the breakdowns for all three goals here.

Bad defence on all three, but people blame Reimer, ignoring the fact the Reimer flat out robbed the Red Wings several times.

After the game Head Coach Randy Carlyle called Reimer’s performance “just okay”. A reporter asked Reimer how he thought he played.

"He said I was just okay? I thought I was good. I don’t know if I was great, and I’d like to be great, but I thought I made some good saves when I needed to.”"

Reimer wasn’t the only one who thought he was good. His agent took to twitter after the game.

That was followed by some quick backtracking.

Reimer is a RFA this summer and while that means he has limited negotiating room, he can make life difficult by refusing to sign anything longer than a one year deal.

That being said, there’s almost no chance that Reimer is back next season. On a Maple Leafs club that desperately needs to improve and has already committed $49.5-million to only 12 players, the Leafs won’t have room for a more expensive James Reimer.

Keep in mind that Reimer’s former backup Ben Scrivens signed for $2.3-million for two years in Edmonton and that Reimer is far more proven with more than double the games, meaning he’s due for a raise from his $1.8-million contract.

On top of that, Reimer is one of the few tradable assets the Leafs have. There’s only three ways to really make a team better in the NHL, sign free agents, draft good players and trade for good players. The Leafs won’t have much money for free agents and won’t be able to draft anybody who can make an immediate impact, so the trade route is all that’s left.

And Reimer knows it. He knows he’s not playing for a spot on the Leafs team, he’s playing for a spot on another team. When the Leafs mail it in and ask him to stand on his head, they’re hurting his chances somewhere else.

Wouldn’t you be? Your teammates can’t hack it in front of you and your coach doesn’t want you. Oh and your GM brought in someone to replace you, so he doesn’t want you either.

For whatever reason the Leafs play noticeably worse in front of Reimer since the halfway mark of the season, you can call it whatever you want, but it’s starting to look a lot like the Leafs did when Trevor Kidd was between the pipes.

And like Kidd, it sure looks like it’s time for Reimer to go.