Looking back at the wreckage of the Maple Leafs 2011-12 season, two things stand out as primary causes for everything going horribly wrong. The first was an advanced statistic view which we talked about at great length; possession wise, the Leafs flat-out sucked. The Leafs spent most of the game in their own end defending instead of giving their high-powered offence, led by Phil Kessel, Joffrey Lupul and Mikhail Grabovski, more chances to score. Great seasons from those three spurred on the Leafs' offensive attack, as the team was scoring at an above-average rate.
In other words, the Leafs' terrific shooting percentages were outperforming their alarming possession percentages, mediocre save percentages, and abysmal penalty kill percentages up until February when the dam finally broke.
The other factor occurred relatively early on in the season. A collision between Brian Gionta and James Reimer forced the Manitoba native out after the end of the period and he missed significant time with a concussion. (
Being a former goalie, colour analyst Glenn Healy was naturally apopleptic at the non-call.) During Reimer's layoff, we learned that Reimer's mother was a medical professional, Brian Burke for some reason is involved in the establishment of journalistic ethics in Canada, and Xanax prescriptions in the GTA increased tenfold thanks to reliance on Jonas Gustavsson as a starting goaltender.
Upon Reimer's return, he didn't quite seem himself, as he struggled to regain his form (largely due to playing in front of the worst penalty kill ever assembled), and that was exacerbated as former coach Ron Wilson opted for a strange game of Russian Roulette which involved constantly switching his starting goaltender between two options with very different forms of brain damage (This stunt remains the third biggest sin of Wilson's tenure that eventually led to his departure, right behind the inability to come up with a penaty kill capable of being at least "terrible" and being a big meanie to Steve Simmons and his pals /.making Toronto journalists work on Christmas Day.).
There is much uncertainty regarding the Leafs goaltending situation (a statement as true today as it was six years ago), but it would appear that the Leafs plan to enter the new season with a young tandem of Reimer and Ben Scrivens. Given the anticipation that Reimer will continue to be a starting goalie in the NHL, the panel remains cautiously optimistic and ranks him #6.
Injuries are a real serious concern for Reimer, which is shame because looking at his career stats you see a goalie who has been on the upswing.Every year of his career up until this one his statistics have been better the next year, either by improving his save percentage or being promoted to a new challenge. But over that span last season was the first time in his professional career Reimer managed to stay healthy enough to play more than 40 games, and even in the Western Hockey League he only played 34, 60 and 30 games in three seasons.
Reimer has a bit of a history with concussions which is always a huge red flag, particularly when you remember what concussions eventually did to Mike Richter as a goaltender. Reimer remains a tremendously talented goalie and someone who has bought into Francois Allaire's style fully, although apparently that means that a "book is out on him" (Sidenote #1; the book is titled How To Score On Any Goalie Who Has Ever Played The Position) (Sidenote #2; Guy Boucher and Tampa Bay should probably shut up and figure out why their ultra-defensive formation kept getting lit up last season) (Sidenote #3; seriously Tampa. Get your own jersey and stop stealing ours)
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Reimer was maybe the most difficult person on the entire list to properly rate; how do you properly assess a 23-year old goaltender who has two half seasons in the NHL under his belt that couldn't have been more different from another? Which season was the real James Reimer, or have we yet to see that player?
Chemmy illustrates the dilemma in explaining his decision to hold Reimer at #4 on his rankings.
It's hard to evaluate James Reimer's season. Though most of us think his .921 last season was the result of getting hot and not having a chance to cool off before the season ended I doubt many people think his .900 this year is representative.There's two factors with Reimer that make me think he could rebound: his head injury from Brian Gionta and the fact that before the Leafs crashed and burned at the end of the year his even strength save percentage was excellent despite his numbers being dragged down by a league worst PK SV%.
This is a make or break year for Reimer. Is he Steve Mason or will he be a good NHL goaltender? We'll see.
As one might expect, birky's oulook is more pessimistic, and he's dropped Reimer significantly down in his rankings, indicating maybe some uncertainty with respect to Reimer's future in the NHL. If Reimer has a tough start to the next season (assuming there is a start to the next season), then birky will be seen as the first-mover on scaling back Reimer's expectations as a pro.
Two things worry me about James Reimer - 1) his injury history combined with a lack of experience. He's had only two healthy seasons since he started junior. 2) about half of the names on this list. I'm not suggesting Reimer can't be a no.1 goalie...I just don't think we have enough evidence to suggest either way. He had a fairly good second half in 2010-2011, but look at the month by month splits in SV%: .932, .926, .913, .909. That's January through April 2011. Last year Reimer was hurt and he put up a decent ES SV%, but again - is there enough evidence to say this guy is one of the best Leaf players for the future? I guess I'm just not willing to make that leap at this time.