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Toronto Maple Leafs: Blame It on Francois Allaire?

Andrew DeGannes@@DrewDiggsContributor IMarch 6, 2012

There is one question that every Maple Leafs fan has asked at least once already this season – What is wrong with James Reimer?

There was the feeling amongst fans coming into this season that the Maple Leafs had found their No. 1 goalie and who could really blame them?

The days of Andrew Raycroft and Vesa Toskala were behind them and the dawn of "Optimus Reim" was approaching.

Reimer’s break into the league was circumstantial to say the least.

During the 2010-11 season, poor play and injuries to Jonas Gustavsson and Jean-Sebastian Giguere forced Ron Wilson to give  his shot.

Reimer took the proverbial ball and ran with it recording 20 wins, 10 losses and five overtime losses in37 starts. He finished the year with a .921 save percentage and a 2.60 goals-against average.

The Leafs fell short of the playoffs, but the love affair with Reimer and Leaf fans had begun. He provided a fan base that had little hope with some excitement and optimism with every sensational save he made.

There were some outstanding performances from the young net-minder, including a game in Philadelphia were Reimer single-handedly beat the Flyers

and stole two points for the visitors. Reimer also was the key cog in the wheel that saw the Leafs earn two improbable victories during a late West Coast road trip against the Sharks and Kings.

TORONTO, CANADA - FEBRUARY 28: James Reimer #34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs regroups as the Florida Panthers celebrate Mike Santorelli goal during NHL action at the Air Canada Centre February 28, 2012 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Abelimages/Getty
Abelimages/Getty Images

The 2011-12  season has been unkind to the Maple Leafs goaltender of the future. Fans have seen a rather large crack in "Optimus Reim"'s armor.

Since a return from a concussion sustained earlier in the year, Reimer has not been the same man between the pipes. His record has dipped to .500 and his goals-against average has inflated to 2.98 with a save percentage hovering around .900.

Many fans were quick to dismiss his poor play to post-concussion-ike symptoms, but Reimer has repeatedly stated that he feels no ill effects and has had ample time to recover. 

The blame may not lie with the player himself; Reimer could be victim to poor advice from goaltending coach Francois Allaire.

The native of Quebec has been mentoring goalies since the 1980s and has an impressive resume when it comes to teaching net minders the craft of goaltending.

The ‘’Allaire Style” has helped the likes of Patrick Roy and Giguere win Stanley Cups and capture Conn Smyth Trophies.

So, why has his techniques not assimilated well with Reimer?

The argument can be made that his coaching has helped Reimer’s counterpart Gustavsson.

The ‘’Monster’’ seems to have become a better goalie fundamentally and his positioning has been more sound under the tutelage of Allaire.

Gustavsson is less often out of position and does not seem to react to every head fake or deke the opposition throws at him – something he was victim to earlier in his career.

Now, it would be unfair to directly blame Allaire for the drop in play in Reimer's game, because without being present for every coaching session and discussion between the two, one would never know the exact cause.

However, the proof seems to be in the pudding in this case.

Leaf fans are not blind and anyone can see with their own two eyes and by tuning into a Leafs broadcast that something is definitely different about  Reimer. He is no longer reacting to his opposition and relying on his instincts.

Instead, he is attempting to become a goalie that relies solely on his positioning. He seems to have adapted a style that suggests curling into a big ball and hoping the puck will hit you works best. 

He has become a carbon copy of the likes of Giguere and Roy. The only difference is thaReimer does not wear a dress for a sweater and have a chest protector that rivals some lacrosse goalies.

Let’s not kid ourselves though, that style seemed to do wonders for the aforementioned, but it seems to be having a negative effect on Reimer.

His success last season was a product of his instincts and his reflexes.

He was already a sound goaltender positionally, but it’s what he’s doing now while in position that differs from what he did last year.

Reimer seems to have no reflexes anymore and almost always tries to be in the butterfly for every save.

Last season, Reimer employed a completely different style.

Some of his reaction saves were nothing short of sensational.

You can view some of them here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yjt4hohOdno

He is more Curtis Joseph and Dominik Hasek then he is Roy and Giguere.

If Reimer is to regain his form that Leaf fans saw last season, he may have to do it without Allaire in his corner.

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