James Reimer Has Earned Starting Job


With a rebuild in the works, the Toronto Maple Leafs headed into this season expecting rocky roads. However, one thing they did not expect was James Reimer backstopping the team to their only four wins through their first 16 games. Reimer, who entered the year as the Bernier’s back-up is the only Leafs goaltender with a W between the pipes and he doesn’t show any signs of slowing down anytime soon.

As the year began the Leafs once again handed the torch to Jonathan Bernier as the teams starting goaltender. Having freshly signed a two-year extension to remain the buds starter, Bernier headed into this season with a lot to prove and the hopes of a long-term deal somewhere. However, shaky goaltending and injury have painted a rocky start to Bernier’s 2015-16 season and has allowed Reimer some extra time between the pipes.

Reimer broke into the Leafs goaltending crease with a jaw-dropping rookie season where he posted a 20-10-5 run with a 2.60 GAA and a .921 save percentage during the 2010-2011 season. Following his impressive rookie showcase, he topped it two years later with a 2.46 GAA and .924 save percentage through 33 games, helping backstop the Leafs back into the postseason. Everything seemed to be going according to play with Reimer emerging as a bonofide start for the Leafs. That is until something cracked in Leafs management and a decision was made that true success could not come on the back of Reimer.

“He’s earned the right to play, so good for him.” Babcock said of Reimer.

Since then Reimer has sat patiently behind Bernier as coach after coach named Bernier the starter despite a limited resume favoring one over the other. It was the same old story; Coaches would begin the season by announcing both Reimer and Bernier would have the opportunity to battle for the number-one job and while Reimer would often outplay his partner, it was always Jonathan Bernier landing the job.

Mike Babcock was no different, but after Bernier kicked off the season with a pitiful 3.02 GAA and a .899 save percentage followed with injury, he had no choice but to pass the baton to the back-up.

In his last six games Reimer has gone 3-1-2 with a .943 save percentage and a 1.83 GAA, very respectable numbers for any starter in the league today. He’s kept his head down and his mouth shut and has earned the right to be the Leafs starter. As of Friday the Leafs starting job should be James Reimer’s to lose.

Bernier’s play between the pipes has been inconsistent and he has never been able to rightfully earn the starters job, being given the benefit of the doubt season after season.

While Bernier is a more technically sound goaltender, Reimer’s will and unwillingness to give up on a play keeps his team in the game and fans on the edge of their seats.

He’s exciting to watch and while weak short-side goals can be his kryptonite, he’s the type of goaltender you cannot help but root for.

Interesting to note, the Leafs hired a new goaltending coach this offseason at the urging of Babcock. Steve Briere has come in and has been working well with Reimer and as a result he’s been shinning on the ice. Perhaps Briere and Bernier are not the best fits together and that explains some of his rough patches.

The Leafs traded for Bernier knowing he was stuck in a powerhouse goaltending pipeline in Los Angeles. They hoped he too had the skill he was rumored to have in a few starts behind the Kings defenseman. However, he hasn’t been able to consistently be the goaltender the Leafs were hoping and with Reimer stepping up and running with his new-found opportunities, it’s time for the Leafs to move on from Bernier. James Reimer has earned the number-one job and it should be his to lose going forward.