After watching the Toronto Maple Leafs trade for Jonathan Bernier during the offseason there had to be a tinge of doubt and confusion that crept into James Reimer‘s head. After all why would a team that just returned to the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons on the back of Reimer go out and try to find his replacement, especially when he is only 25 years old, if they did not want to replace him?
But despite this blatant shot from the Maple Leafs about their visions of whether or not Reimer could be a starting goaltender for the foreseeable future he still fought his way into a role as the co-starter with Bernier during the preseason. In fact Reimer not only stood up to the ability of Bernier but outplayed him by such a large margin that he was given the starting nod on opening night.
This decision seemed to be a recognition from Maple Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle that the benefit of the team could not be ignored in the name of making the franchise’s upper management look better.
Carlyle’s decision paid off in a big way as Reimer stopped 34-of-37 shots and earned the game’s number one star in a 4-3 victory over the Montreal Canadiens. Not only did his statistics look good, though, as Reimer was in complete control of the game, even as 100 penalty minutes were doled out and the Bell Centre maintained a raucous atmosphere. It may not have been the perfect game, but when the Maple Leafs needed a big save or to get a faceoff so that a change of lines could be made Reimer always made it happen. In the end this ability to do whatever was necessary to keep his team in the game when they most needed it was what earned Reimer the spot as the Maple Leafs starter last season and earned them their first win of the 2013-14 season.
This type of showing was a clear shot from Reimer that his 2012-13 season, when he went 19-8-5 with a 2.46 GAA and .924 SV%, was not a fluke. Furthermore, it showed he is not rattled from the Maple Leafs’ collapse in the playoffs at the hands of the Boston Bruins, which likely would have derailed the morale of many young goaltenders for a lengthy period.
Each of these factors should continue to instill the confidence in Carlyle that going with the man who got him into the playoffs in 2012-13 is still the man of the future, even if it does make the Maple Leafs’ trade for Bernier look useless.