Where Does James Reimer Rank Among Toronto Maple Leafs Goalies?
With his win against the Philadelphia Flyers, James Reimer now sits tied for 10th on the Toronto Maple Leafs franchise list for wins by a goalie, a mark that did not come easy for Reimer
By: David Morassutti
It took Bruce Gamble 210 games to get 82 wins as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Last night James Reimer got his 82nd win in his 196th game with the Leafs which put him in a tie with Gamble for 10th on the franchise’s wins list. The 27 year-old Manitoba native has had an interesting career with the Leafs since his debut in the 2010-11 season. It was where he put together a remarkable 20-10-5 run that almost got the Leafs into the playoffs. The Leafs were starting to feel confident with their goaltending situation with Reimer as their number one but an injury-plagued season in 2011-12 was a step back in that plan. In the lockout-shortened 2013 season Reimer was looking to bounce back in the abbreviated 48 games. He did just that with a 12-8-5 record a 2.46 GAA and a .924 sv% which clinched the Leafs first playoff berth in nine seasons.
After the Leafs acquired Jonathan Bernier from the Los Angeles Kings, it looked like Reimer’s reign as the number one goalie in Toronto was coming to an end. After two seasons with Bernier as the number one goalie, Reimer’s future with the team was in doubt especially with Mike Babcock coming in as head coach. After Bernier struggled to start the season an opportunity presented itself for Reimer to regain the starting job. After a dominant stretch in November where he went 6-2-3 with a 1.68 GAA and a .949 sv% in 11 games, it looked like Reimer was gaining confidence. Although a groin injury impeded that, he was able to return and put himself in a position to make his way atop the Leafs wins list. The nine spot is currently occupied by Hall of Fame goalie Ed Belfour who had 93 wins with the Leafs. Reimer should be able to move past Belfour especially with 39 games left in the season. If Reimer does pass Belfour for ninth overall, does that put him in the conversation as one of the top Leafs goalies of all time?
Looking at goalies who have strapped the pads on for the Leafs, it is an impressive list, including some have their names in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Turk Broda, Johnny Bower, Terry Sawchuk, Félix Potvin, Curtis Joseph, Belfour, Grant Fuhr, Jacques Plante, and George Hainsworth are goalies who have had great careers in Toronto but not all had their best years in Toronto. Goalies like Plante, Fuhr, Sawchuk, Hainsworth and Belfour were established goalies before they came to the Leafs.
Broda, Bower, Joseph and Potvin established themselves as a member of the blue and white especially as fan favourites for their dedication and passion. Broda and Bower were the only Leafs goalies to win multiple Stanley Cups which has earned them legendary status. While goalies like Potvin, Joseph, and Belfour were not able to snap the Leafs Stanley Cup drought, they were able to give the Leafs a chance to do so, especially Joseph and Potvin, who got the Leafs to the Conference Finals. So where does Reimer fit within this impressive list of former Leafs goalies?
Considering the fact that Reimer has had his ups and downs, especially when Bernier was brought in, it is difficult to put him in that conversation. While he had a remarkable performance in his only playoff appearance, it does not stack up to performances by the other Leafs goalies mentioned. Granted the Leafs teams that Reimer has played on in his career have not been of the same calibre as the Leafs teams of the past. This is where Reimer could have established himself as the elite goalie that the Leafs have needed for years but now the team is in a tough spot especially because he is a UFA this summer.
With the way Reimer has played this season he could be moved by the trade deadline, though goalies generally do not fetch a big return and the Leafs would be better off giving him a contract extension instead. The reason is because he would probably not get as many suitors in free agency who will be willing to give him a clear cut starters job. The Leafs could make Reimer their starter until either one of the goalies with the Marlies are able to make the jump to the NHL or Reimer is no longer capable of being a full time starter. Even with seasons where he was below a .910 sv% Reimer has a .915 sv% percentage in his career which is the best among all Leafs goalie (who have their save percentage recorded).
While Reimer may not be among the top five Leafs goalies of all time it is safe to assume that he makes the top 10. However, if he were to stick around and be a part of a capable Stanley Cup contender it could help cement his legacy as a top five goalie to play for the Leafs. It looks like the pieces will be there; the only question is where management and Reimer are willing to make that commitment.
In your opinion where does Reimer rank among Leafs goalies? Should the Leafs trade him or sign him to an extension?