There is perhaps no other NHLer more anxious to resume playing hockey than James Reimer. After coming up from the minors in January of 2011, Reimer went 20-10-5 with a .921 save percentage and nearly guided the Maple Leafs on an improbable run to the postseason. Last year, however, Reimer came back down to earth and went just 14-14-4 with a .900 save percentage and a goals against average of 3.10.
Now part of that could be attributed to the injury Reimer suffered early in 2011-12. After starting the campaign 4-0-1 with a shutout, he suffered a concussion like injury against the Montreal Canadiens that no one in the Leafs organization wanted to call a concussion, but was probably a concussion. He never really looked the same after that.
So what to do with Reimer now? Well the Leaf like thing to do would be to ship him somewhere like Columbus or Minnesota, and watch him play ten serviceable years for another organization. Or there are those pesky trade rumours about a Roberto Luongo deal that just won’t die. Finally, they could do something crazy like hold onto to him so he can continue to develop.
The Luongo trade worries me for a few reasons and here’s why. It’s incredibly short-sighted and just desperate enough for Brian Burke to pull the trigger on. The Leafs would no doubt have to give up some good young talent and adding Luongo doesn’t make them a Stanley Cup contender. It just improves their chances at making the postseason.
The logical thing to do would be to keep Reimer around and let him develop with all the other young talent the Leafs have miraculously acquired. Reimer is now healthy and has been working hard all offseason. He said earlier this week in a story for the Winnipeg Sun that he wants an opportunity to put last season behind him. That’s a good sign isn’t it?
The truth is that the core of the Leafs future isn’t Phil Kessel, Joffrey Lupul, and Dion Phaneuf. It’s going to be Nazem Kadri, Matt Frattin, Joe Colborne, Morgan Rielly, and Tyler Biggs. Burke has done a great job putting these pieces in place, but it may be too little too late for him unfortunately. He has to have success in the next year or so to save his job most likely, and the Leafs are set up to win three or four years down the line. All the more reason to keep Reimer around now and see what he turns into.
The team is still years away from being a major contender, so let Reimer show what he can do right now. If he falls flat, then start figuring out a long-term solution with the goaltending situation. No one has actually seen a big enough body of work at the NHL level from Reimer to say he can or can’t be a number one guy. I know it’s against everything the Leafs stand for, but let’s not make any hasty decisions here.