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Feeling good about James Reimer

I wish I knew enough about online technology so I could simply hit a button and see how many times since the end of the last NHL season that I’ve said here at VLM that I had faith that James Reimer could still be an important player for the Leafs.  I guess I’ve said it many different ways—“I still believe Reimer can play”, “I like Reimer”, “I’m a Reimer guy”, etc. but the message from me has continued to be:  I think that, despite injuries and his seeming “slide” last season, the kid can play goal.

Is he flawed?  Sure.  The Leafs are playing better—and so he is.  They go hand in hand.  More structure and a commitment to eliminating as many easy chances for the opposition as possible makes goaltending a bit easier.  And if you, as the ‘keeper, stand on your head sometimes, the rest of the team looks better—and the coach looks like a genius, too.

We all understand that there have not been many truly dominant goaltenders in this current era.  There have been some really good goalies, sure, but not many guys like Hasek, Brodeur, Roy, Belfour and goaltenders of that ilk.  Luongo has been pretty good, Kiprusoff, too but neither has won a Cup (not that that is the end all and the be all for netminders).

But if you go across the league, “hot and cold” has been the order of the day. In Montreal, Carey Price was a saviour, then a bum, then good enough to see the Habs get rid of Halak, then we saw some regression, then he was really good again.  Now he is seen as a top guy in the league.  But it wasn't exactly always a smooth ride.  Is he truly “great”?  I don’t know.  It’s the same with Halak.  He’s had a couple of nice runs, but would you say he is anywhere near the category of guys I referenced above?  I don’t think so.

Jonathan Quick emerged as a superstar last spring, but Jonathan Bernier is now pushing for time in the LA crease.  Mike Smith from from un-wanted in Tampa to a stud in Phoenix, but is he a consistent "star"?  Cam Ward is “good”, but not awe-inspiring on a regular basis.  Or maybe you think he is- that's just my opinion from watching him over the years.

Lundqvist is awfully good in New York, for sure, maybe the best in the league.  Or is he?  (Does it matter to you that he hasn't won a Cup? All of the true "superstar" goalies I cited above did...)  Do most objective observers think he's the best?  Regardless, he’s a fine goaltender.

Tim Thomas had a solid run for a few years, but I doubt we’ll speak of him in all-time terms, either, as nice as his “out of nowhere” story was in Boston.  Philly’s been looking for a true superstar since Bernie Parent.  And we could go on.

My point is that it is seemingly awfully difficult to draft, find, develop, whatever, a goaltender that you can look at and project out over the next ten years and say, “Don't worry, we’re covered here”.  It's not just the Leafs. Few teams have had the security of a Brodeur in net over the years, somebody they know will be really good year after year (and will play seemingly forever).

Here in Toronto, I’m not suggesting that we have a bonafide star in James Reimer.  I’m just pleased that those of us who have always liked him and believed he could play are seeing him continue to progress, despite injuries and the challenges of playing under the Toronto marketplace microscope.

Many were desperate for the Leafs to make a run at Luongo, and that might have worked out fine.  I'm not a Luongo guy as I've stated here many times before, but I get why people would want him here, or at least did want him here.  But as I posted a few days ago, this has been a “free shot” year for Randy Carlyle, a season where he can experiment without the pressure or expectations of having to win “right now”.   Few, if any, observers expected big-time results with the current roster.  Most Leaf fans were prepared to accept some semblance of improvement.

I recognize and have many times said here that the bar has been way too low in Toronto for too long.  It should never be enough in the best hockey market in the world to be satisfied with being OK, or just making the playoffs.  The objective has to be a lot higher than that.

But given where we’ve been, you have to take steps and part of that process has been Nonis and Carlyle seeing what they have, who they can rely on and making assessments along the way.  That the team has been able to run with two “unproven” guys in goal and wins games is huge.  I have no clue if both of these guys will pan out as consistent, high-end NHL goalies.  Maybe.  Maybe not.  We’ll see.

But both are fighters, and I think Reimer is showing a competitive side that I’m sure those who know and have played with him already knew he had.  He wants to be 'number-one', and has played pretty darn well this season overall.

Those who visit here know I’m a big fan of how he presents himself in public as well.  If he can somehow maintain what seems to be a genuinely positive and friendly disposition while playing his position well, he will bask in the glow of long-term popularity in Leafland, and may some day fall in line with Leaf greats like Gilmour and Clark in people's hearts.  Now, he has a long, long way to go—and there are a lot of playoff series to win—before we can legitimately make that kind of claim.  But my point is simply that in this market, we appreciate and always remember warmly those Leafs who not only play hard and do their best for us, but who seem to appreciate the adulation they receive and aren’t arrogant jerks.  That’s why (in addition to four Stanley Cups, of course) Johnny Bower (shown in his playing days in the early 1960s, above right) was beloved by Leaf supporters and still is to this day, at the age of 88.  That’s why people still love Gilmour and Clark.  If you’re good, if you're a decent guy and you give everything you have, you’ll always be in our Maple Leaf “memory”.  And fondly so.

I hope Reimer can continue to stay healthy and play the kind of goal that I think he can.  Can he be an all-time great?  Will he ever lead us to a Stanley Cup?  Those things would be nice, but not really even necessary.  Compete for us, do your best, leave it all on the ice and keep being a solid individual. 

Leave the rest to us.  We’ll take care you of.


  1. Optimus Reim is a fine ambassador for the Leafs. Whether he wins a Cup or not is second-hand. Could he win a Cup? Hey, it's still Chris Osgood, the useless goalie who gets much credit for a number of the Red Wings' Cups.

    Something about Reimer just screams he'll be happier and go luckier as the games get tougher. There was no indication Patrick Roy would be an impenetrable wall before he made it happen, largely by himself.

    No account of anyone saying Jonathan Quick would be impossible to beat before he just got into the zone. I'm not too sure anyone ever managed to connect with Felix Potvin in any language to divine if he would be "up for it" in spring of -93. And he might have been, if not for the unspoken rule wherein "superstars get to do stuff you won't ever get away with".

    But yeah, he can enter the "charmed zone", where not too many things escape him. I was more worried about the latest Sens win, where some Sens got to rush him without having to pay for it.

    I think Phaneuf was on the ice, and the "C" always gets some space when distributing justice. Maybe Dion has a gotten a mandate for not fighting, but I just hate it when nobody makes the opposition pay for having a go at your goalie.

    Reimer got rushed, and nobody intervened. No penalties were issued, because it's obviously normal for your goalie to get jumped by a couple of guys. Basically, if your goalie suffers contact, you make sure the guy making that contact will be sore enough to think twice before doing it again. Our guys did nothing.

    We don't have that overall scary guy that makes good teams great. We seem to actually have a new Doug Gilmour in Kadri, but we have little in the sense of authority. If we can't make the Senators to steer clear off our goalie, who is a very young man, how far can we expect to go?

  2. You've extended our theme of the day beyond Reimer, CGLN! (And I agree with your point on Quick and Patrick Roy...) But I appreciate what you are saying about the broader issues the Leafs will need to deal with.

    You may be right that Phaneuf is under orders to not fight in those (or any) circumstances, but yes, there are times the goalies need to be protected, absolutely. That falls under the need for team toughness- which a lot of us believe has been more in evidence so far this season. Thanks CGLN.

  3. James Reimer appears to be one of the most genuinely humble and appreciative NHL players I have consistently appreciated for the way he conducts himself under the media microscope. His life is a testimony to a strong character and work ethic... he takes nothing for granted, works hard yet is truly thankful for every opportunity to play in the NHL.

    I think James is settling into the kind of player he can be over the long term... not only has he recovered from the lingering effects of last season's injury, he has some exceptionally quick feet. His compact, explosive movements from blocking positions to cross-crease movements and his energetic recovery to a standing position from a butterfly (or otherwise) is a testament to his craftsmanship.

    His catching glove has improved throughout this season (especially over last) and I've seen some pretty significant 'snags' during the last few weeks... and only one real 'muff' that was because of an unexpected flutter puck that went UNDER (not high!) his catching glove.

    I know he will work on other deficiencies like puck handling/passing (that does need some work), but I have little doubt it's on his checklist and will be addressed if we give him the time.

    James is the kind of guy you root for on every level and I'm glad to see him having some success this year. It's a nice reward to see him survive and now begin to thrive once more! I'm so thankful that Randy has provided the context in which he can make a difference (without having to 'overextend' without measure to save the day). He's good enough to become better because of his character... young man... bright future. So glad he's still here!

  4. Awfully well-said, thank you, InTimeFor62. I sense Reimer has a lot of people pulling for him.

  5. We have been tougher overall than be have been for years. And I've sais it before, penalty minutes do not a tough guy make. It's more about shaking off a big hit and willingness to stand up for a guy. And Reims did get run over and concussed, so I feel when there's even a semblance of that sort of situation repeating itself, well, if your captain just stands there and looks with his mitts tightly on, something's amiss. When you're the captain, and your goalie has been concussed in the past in the same situation, are you just going to stand there?

    Even if we had Teemu Selänne as our Captain (I wish!), he would barrel the culprits off their case. But Dion just looks at the refs. Let's face it, hockey is, at times, a barbaric team sport. And we need our goalie to at least be able to play. If you're the captain, you should be raring to go at those situations, no matter what mandate has been issued. At the very least, those guys who so conveniently fell over Reims, should have gotten a good face rubbing. Instead, Dion gave an incredulous look at the refs.

    We need our captain to set an example, the kind that sends a message of don't tread on our boys. We don't have the Stevie Y kind of authority, so no matter the mandate, Reimer is more important than your slapper, Dion. Protect the boy, no matter what the coach says. He'll understand and your teammates will lov you for it.

    But yeah, there's not a thing wrong with Reimer. He knows he can beat anyone in the opposing end. He just needs the support to do their part.

  6. Could not agree more with your line that "penalty minutes do not a tough guy make". I've felt that way for decades, and wonder why people so often equate high penalty minutes (which has to do, usually, with fighting majors or a guy taking way too many harmful minors- which his teammates then have to kill off, because of hooking, holding, etc...) with some kind of positive contribution to a team.

    Yes, the Leafs have to stand up in those moments you mention. And that falls on everyone, including the Captain. Goalies need to know that his teammates have his back. The Sabres went through that last season and went out and found a 270 giant.

    Thanks CGLN. Another challenge tonight against the Pens.

  7. I haven't had the confidence in Reimer that you have, Michael, mainly because of the sample size. I like him as a person, sure, but just felt we needed to see more. The other teams definitely found his weak spots the first time around, and exploited them. This year he's looked more confident, moves better laterally, and has worked on his weak areas. I'm still bothered at his tendency to duck on top shelf shots, thus opening up some holes under the crossbar, and I'm always apprehensive when he tries to handle the puck behind the net, but overall I think he (and Scrivens, for that matter) have both improved significantly.

  8. I'm going to give Dion a pass for not fighting over the big goalie bump in the Ottawa game.

    That was the game when McLaren knocked out the young Ottawa player. Ray Ferraro was at ice level and said it was one of those incidents when everybody on both benches just gasped and and felt a little sick at the sight.

    After seeing that in the first period, I can certainly understand not fighting for the rest of the game.

  9. I agree the sample size is still small, Gerund O'. If he can continue to work on his game, he may be what we need.

  10. I understand what you're saying, DP.