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Reimer deal understandable but gives some of us one less reason to like the Maple Leafs…

Those who have followed the musings here at VLM over the years know that I‘ve been a “Reimer guy” pretty much since he joined the big club during the 2010-’11 NHL season.

Much has changed for him and the organization since then—not to mention the countless teammates who have come and gone in the interim.  As fans, we’ve experienced the worst of times, but really haven’t experienced the best of times, have we?

Reimer has been, since Day One here, an imperfect netminder. But given that he was a mid-round draft choice back in 2006, most of us likely had virtually no expectations that he would ever be a difference-maker. Heck, many first-round goalie picks never achieve that status for any length of time.

But from the outset, Reimer was, for me, a breath of fresh air. He seemed genuine, and never seemed to find being in the spotlight in Toronto something he could not handle. While others more expert than I at goaltender analysis picked apart his technical and mechanical flaws, I simply appreciated the fact that the Leafs had a goaltender who cared, battled and would way more often than not fight back from bad starts in games or bad goals.

And maybe most importantly,  he always seemed to be proud to be a Maple Leaf who actually wanted to be in, and stay in, Toronto. (Unlike some guys who can’t seem to get out of Dodge quickly enough…)

His numbers and stats over the years have been fine but pretty middlish. Still, Reimer had a lot of moments that made me believe he was and remains a solid NHL goalie. On better Leaf teams, with better structure and a willingness to do the right things on defense (regardless of the "system" different coaches employed during his tenure here), how good might he have been?

So here we are (and it’s hard to believe), with Reimer already in his sixth season in Toronto, and the soon-to-be 28 year old former Red Deer junior is now a San Jose Shark.  He has long not been the organization’s goaltender of choice—not since the now departed Tim Leiweke referred to him as the “guy we inherited” in net. 

So perhaps this will be a good thing, for the Maple Leafs and for Reimer.  Receiving essentially only a fourth round draft pick is no doubt the best Lamoriello could muster. There aren’t many teams looking to pay a lot for goaltenders who (as much as I like Reimer and think he’s a fine netminder) who will likely be, at best, a back up in their new situation.

I have no idea if there will be a market for the pending free agent.  Could he return to Toronto?  I don’t really think so.  It seems more likely he will land elsewhere, again fighting to be a number-one guy.

I hope he has success with San Jose.  Whether he plays a big or minor role there will likely determine his value this summer.  But for me, I’m mostly in a mood today to reflect on the fact that I very much appreciated Reimer’s time in Toronto.  Over the last decade, I have often found the Leaf organization (starting with ownership ) a bit un-likeable.

Reimer was one guy I liked. To me, he was an individual that represented the Leaf legacy and Maple Leaf crest very well.

He was a good player, and a good Leaf during some very difficult times for the organization.


  1. Although I wasn't a "Reimer guy" as far as his goaltending was involved up till this year, I really liked his attitude to the disgraceful series of unfortunate events he was made to endure in Toronto. I don't believe there's a goalie in the league who could've faced the number of shots he had to face over the past few years, thanks to our pathetic defensive system, and had a winning percentage. To make matters worse, management cast him as the goat after the Bruin implosion, which was tremendously unfair. And then he had to put up with all the Bernier/who's #1 BS that continued right into this season - until he put up numbers that remain among the league's best. Who knows how he might have fared if he'd played on a better team? He was certainly hung out to dry here in Toronto, both on and off the ice.
    I was really impressed at his dedication to the team and the game - and he definitely seemed to be playing as well as he ever had this year, if not better.
    I wish him success and nothing but the best, wherever he ends up.

  2. I of course have always been a Reimer guy myself, and I am now reflecting on his time with the Leafs with mixed emotions. He was just so likable, I don't care how much this is a tough business, you're going to be sad to see him go. At the same time, I'm fairly relieved for him to get out of this situation. In spite of rampant mistreatment during his time here, he never demanded a trade, elected to re-sign here, and continued to battle and compete for the starting position that the Leafs were simply never going to give him outright.
    My own limited knowledge of goaltenders tells me he was average on technique. The intangible factor that cannot be ignored is that goaltending is 90% mental. If you've ever wondered how seemingly great goalies have gone bad in the NHL or at any other level, it isn't because they forgot how to play the position, it's because something got into their head that they could not shake. Reimer was quite exceptional in his ability to tune out the noise, from management to fans to media. I will continue to hope for him that he gets a fair chance to start somewhere. I do not want him to think about re-signing here in the summer, I believe that would be the death knell of his career.

    1. I share your view that the mental side of the game is crucial for athletes, Pete- and probably especially for netminders. We can all cite examples of individuals who were tremendously talented, but when confidence goes, it's a tough position to play.

      Like you, I hope Reimer does well in San Jose and beyond.

  3. hear! hear! michael this was a nice send-off for a stand-up player. i certainly wish him the best.

    now that the trade-deadline is over, i would love to hear your thoughts on all of the wheeling & dealing management did (especially the past month or so).

    1. I do want to post on where the team stands, now that the dust has settled, Alex. One quick thought: I have not (I'm sure others have!) calculated where the Leafs sit in terms of draft picks for this summer and the next couple of years. We certainly seem to have a lot of second round picks, which can only help.

  4. Reimer never deserved the treatment he got in Toronto - from some fans and media, and certainly from management - yet he had just the disposition to enable him to get on with the job. He somehow seemed to improve the busier he was, the more shots he faced and the more consecutive games he played. If he had only had the confidence of the coaches and management, who knows what he might have achieved? Instead the Leafs traded for another goaltender when they had glaring holes elsewhere on their roster. Along with the buyout of Grabovski at a time when he was one of their best possession players, I think that was perhaps the worst move the team made over those few years. Trading Reimer for, essentially, a fourth-round pick was the icing on the cake. I'll miss cheering for him.

    And a postscript: if the motivation was to give playing time to Sparks or Bibeau on the big club, and nobody was interested in trading for Bernier, surely he could have been sent down to the Marlies to open up a spot.

    1. Good to hear from you, Peregrine. I agree- a player having (and showing) confidence is so important. But if he senses the organization does not believe in him, it's awfully tough to fight through that.

  5. Hello Michael,

    Even though I never really took a side in the Reimer vs. Bernier grudge match, I am still a little sad to see James go.

    I always respected his compete level and thought that after last off-season, when he went to "goalie school", he had taken a step forward in becoming a better goaltender.

    Unfortunately, he had injuries at inopportune times and seemed to lose the confidence of the current management group that he could be a solution in net moving forward.

    As others have mentioned, the previous management group had lost faith in him after that loss in Game 7 vs. the Bruins, conveniently forgetting that him standing on his head in games 5 and 6 are what got the Leafs to that fateful Game 7. They clearly blamed him for that Game 7 loss but as anyone who has played organized sport knows - you win as a team, you lose as a team.

    Quite frankly, if any blame should be laid for that loss, it should clearly rest with the coach - Carlyle. Both that's a post for another discussion.

    I wish James the best with San Jose and wherever he ends up after that - though I hope it isn't with the Leafs as he has endured way more than his fair share of nonsense in his time here.


    1. Very fair comments, as always, Wayne. Reimer became a scapegoat here- which was not at all fair.

  6. I have no problem seeing Reimer go if it helps the team win. I have to say that there have been quite a few times over the years, especially the Ballard years, where I have been disappointed and disillusioned with what the Leafs have done. That being said they are my team and I have and always will pull for them. I hated most of what Burke did and I never liked how Burke thought he was the expert on everything while he was setting the team back years with his dinosaur thinking. Even things like giving Liles the big contract while he was concussed and saying it was the right thing to do even if it wasn't good for the team. The right thing is building a winning team that can compete for a Cup, simple as that and you don't get brownie points for being nice and losing the right way. Nonis set the Leafs back even further by continuing Burke's plan because Burke taught him everything he knew about hockey.

    I liked Reimer when he played good and I didn't like him on those nights, and there were enough of them where he played bad. I can see why the Lamoriello traded him as it was reported he was asking for $6 million a year for 5 years. His agent denied it but it is hard not to believe he was looking for at least $5 million a year given most starters in the NHL make over $5 million and the Leafs were paying Bernier $4.2 million. Reimer had better numbers than Bernier this year so he would would want to make more and if he wants $5 million a year it seems likely he is asking for $6 million. From the Leafs perspective they probably think Bernier was not even worth the $1 million or less like most backups make. The other factor as Lamoriello said was they need to give Sparks and Bibeau a chance to play in the NHL and find out what they actually have so moving Reimner is simply part of the rebuild plan.

    I really like the total rebuild the Leafs are now undertaking. Every move seems to make sense to me. Even the lack of deals on trade deadline day as my guess is given the number of high picks they already have, eight in the first two rounds in 2016 and 2017 they are reaching the saturation point. They already have one of the best records of any team ever in the AHL with the Marlies. The Marlies are also one of the youngest teams in the AHL so we know they have some good players coming up. To me it seems one of their problems now is they can only have 50 players after junior under contract so they may lose some good proppects.

    Anyway I just wanted to say that now after 50 years of futility I still like the Leafs and it really is nice to finally have an actual light at the end of the tunnel.

    1. I absolutely hear what you're saying, Alton. For most fans, as much as they may like or root for certain players, at the end of the day, they support the team- usually from the time they were kids. Thanks for posting.