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Leafs have a decision to make on James Reimer

Let’s be clear:  I’ve loved the Reimer story as much as anyone.  He has come out of nowhere, played very well—played his heart out really.  And to add to all that good stuff, he comes across as a genuinely nice young man (see earlier post “Can we bottle Reimer’s attitude…”).

But as the as the clock creeps toward midnight in this phase of this season’s Cinderella story, the Leaf brass has a decision to make.  What’s the best thing for Reimer going forward?  The guy has backstopped the team into playoff contention, with very few poor outings and virtually no rest.  But most great “runs” come to an end.  Maybe he’ll step back in and shine in Carolina, but it’s also possible his streak of outstanding play has simply hit a wall.

Reimer has played, what is it now, 14 games in a row or thereabouts?  He had the neck problem, now the hand problem.  He may be banged up, whether they want to acknowledge it or not.  Regardless, when was the last time this young man played this many games in a row?  Obviously never, at the NHL level.

I don’t believe for a moment that this is strictly a coach’s decision.  Wilson will have input, but this goes higher up the food chain. 

This is not to, even in the tiniest way, lay the Tampa Bay game at his doorstep.  Far from it.  The young man has stood tall from the time he got here.  When he has a less than spectacular night, he quite obligingly takes responsibility.  (After every tough game, he has always come back and played solidly.)  Importantly, he is equally level-headed when things do go his way.

But there are two things at play here:  his own long-term development, and the team’s desire to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2004.

There is no doubt, none at all, that he has been the right guy to be between the pipes during this stretch.  (Even with three goalies on the roster at times, there is no “controversy”.  He has earned his time, with no debate.)  And I’m not saying he isn’t the right guy to handle the load the rest of the way.  But I do wonder if it is expecting just a bit too much to suggest he will just keep playing every night.

I well remember that Felix Potvin was a young guy, too, when he took the reins back in ’93.  He started every playoff game, whether he had a rough game or not.  Pat Burns just kept showing faith in him—and that approach worked.

Reimer is still playing well and making some huge saves.  But if he is tired, and hurting, well, doesn’t everything run out of gas eventually—or at least need a re-charge?

Perhaps Giguere is still not a hundred per cent.  Gustavsson’s health may be a factor too, and he is a long time removed from being a difference-maker in the Leaf net.

Importantly, my sense is that the team has very little confidence in either Giggy or The Monster right now.  Not that they both can’t regain the team’s confidence, but they would have to step in, play well—and keep playing well. 

More than two months ago I wrote that the Leafs needed a goalie to take the ball and run with it if they hoped to have a shot at making the playoffs.  A goalie who would play out of his head.  Who expected that goalie would be Reimer?

The Leafs want to get to the playoffs, but they also have to think about safeguarding a potentially significant asset for years to come in Reimer.  My guess is the Leaf brass doesn’t want to do anything to harm Reimer’s confidence, so they will go with him if he is healthy because they feel he is their guy going forward—regardless of potential playoff implications.  If that’s the case, I understand.  They owe him whatever is best for his confidence, his health—and his future.


  1. It's definitely pumpkin time for Reimer and the Leafs. Other teams know he hunches down on high shots, exposing the upper corners, and that he's weak in tight. How many times have we seen pucks squirt through his pads in the last few games? He's done a great job, and may be a goalie of the future, but the truth is the Leafs still don't have a reliable goaltender. And until they do, they won't be top 8.
    I do think he should stay up for the duration of the season. He seems to have a good attitude - let's hope he learns from this year (as we've been saying about so many Leafs). On a good night, it feels as if we're only two or three players away from contending. Hopefully, Reimer will be part of the journey to glory! Right now, he's reminding me more and more of Toskala.

  2. @ Gerund O'Malley

    Reimer has been great for us this season. Nobody expected that he would be the guy that would bring up hope and I'm sure nobody was excpecting him to be perfect every game. All good things come to an end. Bad goal, defense didn't help him either but the point is, don't compare him to he-who-shall-not-be-named-but-begins-with-T. Reimer is young and has plenty of tim to learn. I agree with you by giving him the start untill the end of the season because i think it would just help him get better, even if we don't make the playoffs.
    As for next season, I would like for Reimer to share the net with Gus and let Giguere go. Giguere is importante but only off the ice, in my opinion. I thinks its too early for him to retire but the groin isn't helping him.

  3. I think Reimer can be our #1 goalie. We should continue playing him as #1 this year but don't hesitate to rest him when necessary and give Giguere some games. As for next year - I disagree with the idea that we need to go after a big name goalie in the summer (like Bryzgalov, as some have suggested). Reimer might not turn out to be a superstar, but he does the job. There's no point paying a superstar goalie to make 40 saves every night when we have a porous defence and a lack of scoring. If we can bolster our defence and add a top centre, I think those are more important needs than goaltending at the moment.


  5. " a long time removed from being a difference-maker in the Leaf net.". umm, did I miss a legion of my life? Cause I have NO recollection of him EVER being a difference maker.