He took the Toronto Maple Leafs to the playoffs. He even stretched their series against the Boston Bruins to seven games. But just a couple months later, the Leafs showed they don’t have faith in James Reimer by making a deal with the Los Angeles Kings for Jonathon Bernier.
Reimer didn’t shrug off the deal as business as usual. He took the deal personally, telling QMI Agency, “It makes you feel a bit doubted as a goalie.”
By the numbers, and frankly performance, Reimer was undoubtedly a top-10 goaltender in the NHL this season, posting a .924 save percentage and a 2.46 average. It’s not as though it was his only strong season either. In 2010-11, the former Red Deer Rebel shined for the Leafs after being called up in replace for the injured J.S. Giguere. He almost singlehandedly took them to the post-season, maintaining a .921 save percentage and a 2.60 average in 37 games.
Last year, Reimer couldn’t get rolling after the concussion he suffered early in the year. He did, however, show flashes of a future No. 1 goalie, posting a .900 save percentage and a 3.10 average under one of the weaker defensive cores in the league.
Based on these three seasons, it would be a tad premature to consider Reimer a star. He has, after all, only suited up for 104 regular-season games. But at the same time, he has clearly shown he’s a starting goaltender and that he has the potential to take further strides in his game into stardom.
There’s no denying there are some concerns about Reimer such as his rebound control and his history of concussions. His outstanding play against Boston in the playoffs, for the most part anyways, should have earned Reimer enough respect from Leafs management for them to put faith in him as their No. 1 puck stopper, though.
Bernier, meanwhile, is clearly more unproven than Reimer. He has only played 62 games in The Show, posting a .912 save percentage and 2.36 average. Not to mention, he has made all of nine saves in the playoffs. Sure, he has a lot of potential and is former first-round pick, but that doesn’t mean much as there are more starting goaltenders in the NHL drafted in the seventh round or later than the first round.
Although I stand by my belief that the trade disrespected Reimer, it does have some merit. Brining in Bernier will push Reimer to compete for the starting job. If the Leafs kept Ben Srivens or signed a no-name backup, he wouldn’t have had the pressure on his shoulders to earn the job.
The other thing about this deal is there are two different outcomes that make it a smart trade for Toronto. If Reimer stands tall next year and Bernier rides the pine, it looks like a smart move because you can assume the puck-stopping competition pushed Reimer. At the other end of the spectrum, if Bernier ends up stealing Reimer’s job, it’s a smart deal for Toronto because that would show Bernier is indeed a high-end goalie and Reimer is possibly not as strong as he currently seems.