“The Toronto Maple Leafs have their goaltender of the future.” That was the sentiment of Maple Leafs fans after the 2010-11 season. After an injury-filled 2011-12 season, the attitude has changed in some fans' minds to: “We need a new goaltender.”
These views are both referring to the pride of Morweena, Manitoba, James Reimer.
In 37 games in the 2010-11 season, Reimer achieved 20 wins, a .921 save percentage and a 2.60 goals-against average. In 34 games in 2011-12, he had only 14 wins, a .900 save percentage and a 3.10 goals-against average.
What will happen this year?
That question depends on several factors. Will Reimer return to his 2010-11 form? Is he over his concussion/neck issues?
All these questions will be answered this season—that is, if there is a season.
The reason I say this is because of how James Reimer played in that season.
He didn’t exactly dominate, but had he played that way the entire season, the Leafs probably would have made the playoffs. Not in a high spot, but definitely one of the final three spots.
Last season, he started off playing just fine, going 4-0-1. After returning from his injury, he didn’t exactly get back to where he was, but you can blame that on the injury or a sophomore slump.
This season, there is no reason to believe that Reimer can’t get back to his prior standard.
In 2010-11, James Reimer really wasn’t being pushed. With an oft-injured J.S. Giguere and an inconsistent Jonas Gustavsson behind him, Reimer could have done anything and the Leafs would have just had to call someone else up.
Last season, much of the same happened, as it was Reimer, Gustavsson and Ben Scrivens sharing time.
This year, Reimer will have a goaltender that led the Toronto Marlies to the Calder Cup finals last season in Scrivens pushing him to be better.
Let the barbs fly.
It will be a combination of things, but James Reimer will be a big part of it.
With his return to form, Ben Scrivens pushing him and the Leafs' all-around defense getting better, the odds of Toronto breaking its seven-season playoff drought will go way up.
The Leafs offense has never been the problem, and now that the defense will be better—and it will with a full year under Randy Carlyle—and with a reinvigorated Reimer between the pipes, the Leafs will make the playoffs.