What is James Reimer?

Tom Szczerbowski / USA Today

The Toronto Maple Leafs dropped their third straight decision on Wednesday night in a 5-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Wednesday also marked the third consecutive start for James Reimer, who is filling in for No. 1 duties while Jonathan Bernier recovers from a groin injury. The Maple Leafs recent run of losses has come at the most inopportune time with the postseason lurking around the corner. It's not so much the fault of Reimer, although his coach Randy Carlyle may disagree, as it is a poor defensive hockey club showing its true colors.

The Leafs are a terrible defensive team. They have asked far too much from their captain Dion Phaneuf, who is routinely relied upon for tough minutes and assignments without much help. It's been a lot of luck in the shooting department and great goaltending that has the Maple Leafs currently sitting in a playoff position, but only one of those things is a realistic representation of the team.

The Maple Leafs goaltending situation is rather intriguing. Reimer proved himself capable of handling a starter's workload last season, and after 134 games and over 4,000 shots faced in his career, he holds a league average save percentage of .914. That mark is bogged down by the fact that Reimer plays behind a team that gives up a lot of shots. His even strength save percentage is a nifty .924. That's equal to the likes of Henrik Lundqvist and Roberto Luongo. By comparison, Bernier is stopping pucks at a rate of .935 in 5v5 situations and .925 overall. There's a good argument to be made that Reimer has struggled, relatively speaking, due to his demotion to a backup role. The eyeball test would also indicate that the Maple Leafs are especially bad in front of him on most nights, even if it's just coincidence.

The point here is that the Maple Leafs have great goaltending. With Bernier having effectively proved himself a legitimate No. 1 NHL goaltender, it appears that Reimer's days in Toronto could very well be numbered. Reimer has taken heat from Carlyle for his play, however unfair that is, and his agent has expressed his displeasure over the situation publicly. Despite lesser numbers and taking a back seat to his teammate Bernier, Reimer is an NHL starter. He's likely going to have to find his way out of town via trade this summer in order to assume that role, though.

Reimer has passed both the numbers and eyeball tests as a No. 1 goaltender. Reimer's managed to maintain a league average save percentage this season despite sitting in an unfamiliar role and looking at guys like Paul Ranger, Cody Franson, and Tim Gleason wade around their own zone like an inebriated uncle at an open wedding bar. For his own sake, it's time for the Maple Leafs to move Reimer.

If the 2014 trade deadline taught us anything, it's that goaltenders can still move via trade. It's likely that Toronto's best offer for Reimer will be something in the “third round draft pick-to-fringe prospect/bottom sixer” range, but they created this situation for themselves. Reimer is a very good goaltender, but he's going to be someone else's very good goaltender.

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What is James Reimer?
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