During the lockout it was a forgone conclusion that Roberto Luongo would be headed to the Maple Leafs. Then the lockout ended, Brian Burke was fired, and more than two weeks into the season Bobby Lu is still in Vancouver and has reclaimed the starting job.
While the Leafs may have missed out on a rejuvenated Luongo his absence in Toronto has opened the door for James Reimer. Reimer was benched for the first two games of the season in favor of Ben Scrivens who had been playing and playing well in the AHL during the lockout. After he played well in his first start of the season Reimer then came off the bench the next night replacing Scrivens and Optimus Reim hasn’t looked back.
Reimer came into the league with a bang and everyone anointed him as the savior in net for Toronto. Reimer followed up his breakout rookie season with a disappointing sophomore campaign. Between multiple injuries and losing starts to then goalie partner Jonas Gustavsson, Reimer only played in 34 games last season. While he didn’t play well, everyone in Toronto and in the Toronto media hit the panic button and essentially called the 24 year old career over.
It’s not uncommon for goaltenders to go into a slump, especially when those goalies are young and playing for mediocre teams.
Remember when Carey Price was benched in favor of Jaroslav Halak after Price came into the league with a bang?
Jonathan Quick, Henrik Lundqvist, and Ryan Miller all took steps back in their second and third seasons. Tim Thomas, while coming into the league as 31 year old, took a sizable step back in his second full year.
None of these players teams quit on them, and while Toronto may have tried to move on from the Reimer Era, he is showing them and the media that maybe they shouldn’t be writing his career’s eulogy quite yet.
So far this season Reimer has put up some pretty respectable numbers considering he is still playing in Toronto who’s defense is arguably worse than it was last season (though Mike Kostka has played surprisingly well).
Right now he has a save percentage of .917 Save percentage and a 2.71 GAA following a rough outing against the Hurricanes. While those numbers may not be stellar, nowhere near as stellar as Luongo’s, they are still good considering he is playing for what is still the worst team in his division.
While Luongo would, as a player, be a clear upgrade over Reimer right now, I think Reimer’s above average play has pulled Toronto out of the Luongo sweepstakes. Toronto was unwilling to give up valuable assets for Lu when they thought they had a real mess in net.
Now with Reimer playing well I don’t think the Leafs would make a move on Luongo unless Vancouver was willing to give him away for essentially nothing.
Toronto might want to stick with Reimer for financial reasons as well. With big name players like Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, and Jerome Iginla heading to free agency this offseason, and Toronto expected to be in the mix as they always are, the Leafs could use all the cap space they could get.
Now Reimer has his chance to prove he can be a starter in the NHL. Is he up to the task?
He couldn’t have put the numbers he did in his rookie season without actually having the skill to be the starter. Reimer will keep his head above water this season and could break out next year, especially if Toronto’s defensive comes together in the offseason.
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