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Behind The Bench: James Reimer

by on 08/12/2011

Born: March 5, 1988
Ht: 6’2″
Wt: 208 lbs
Draft: 99th overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2006
Plays for: Toronto Maple Leafs, Goaltender, Catches Left
Jersey No.: #34

NHL Stats

Regular Season: 37 GP, 20 W, 10 L, 5 OTL, 2.60 GA, .921 Sv%
Playoffs: 0 GP, 0 W, 0 L, 0 OTL, 0.00 GA, .000 Sv%

James Reimer has been the only bright spot for the Toronto Maple Leafs in the last five years.

Believe to being a raw unfinished product, Reimer was selected 99th overall in 2006 by the Maple Leafs. Reimer attended the Maple Leafs training camp in both 2006 and 2007, but he was returned to his junior club. the Red Deer Rebels both years.

Despite suffering a torn ligament in his ankle in 2008 that limited him to 30 games, the Maple Leafs signed Reimer to a three-year ELC worth the league minimum with a signing bonus and playing incentives.

Reimer attended the Leafs training camp in 2008 but was cut early and sent down to the Maple Leafs AHL affiliate, the Toronto Marlies. Reimer start  his season with the Marlies but was assigned to the Reading Royals of the ECHL shortly after. Reimer spent the season with the Reading Royals until the ECHL trade deadline where he was traded to the South Carolina Stingrays to get some valuable playoff experience. Reimer helped the Stingrays win the Kelly Cup and was named the ECHL Playoffs MVP.

Reimer against attended the Leafs training camp in 2009 and again was cut and sent to the Marlies. He started in 26 games with the Marlies and recorded 14 wins. Reimer had a 2.25 GAA with a .925 Sv%. Reimer suffered another ankle injury during the season and missed significant playing time.

After 3 training camps with the Maple Leafs, Reimer was not expected to contribute at the NHL level during the 10/11 season, he was assigned to the Marlies at the start of the season but was recalled in late December. He spend most of January being assigned and re-assigned between the Marlies and the Leafs until he stuck with the Leafs at the end of January. A combination of poor play and injures by Jonas Gustavsson and Jean-Sebastien Giguere allowed Reimer the chance to shine at the NHL level. Reimer played so well at the NHL level that the Maple Leafs were forced to carry 3 goalies when and helped the Leafs make a push for the playoffs down the stretch. Reimer helped the Leafs to 10th place, falling short by 7 points.

The Leafs signed Reimer to a three-year $5.4M contract extension on June 9, 2011.

Both Reimer and Gustavsson will be fighting for the start position next year and with Reimer’s off-season training, its unlikely Gustvasson will supplant him as the Leafs number one. Reimer’s last NHL game was on April 9, 2011, he then joined team Canada at the World Champsionships in May and then took a week off for his wedding anniversary and has been working hard since returning. Reimer was able to single-handedly change the entire make-up of the Maple Leafs team. The Leafs went 4-0 at the beginning of the season only to plummet down the standings. Every player on the Leafs’ team lacked any type of confidence and any urge to play the game. Then Reimer was recalled and he brought a surge of energy that the entire team fed off of, the team went 15-7-5 in 28 games that Reimer started from February 3 to April 9, Reimer was pulled on February 27th, 2011. Reimer’s mere presence was able to pick up a struggling Leafs team half-way through the season, a chance to see what he can do for the team in a full season is an interesting prospect Ron Wilson is sure to take a gamble on.

Reimer is a big goalie who has no problem filling the net. He plays a simple and aggressive style; he likes to come out of his crease to challenge shooters. His long legs allow him to cover the bottom half of the net effectively when he goes down into the butterfly. Reimer plays a very fundamental game, he focuses on pushing, stopping and being square to the shooter. Reimer has decent puckhandling abilities as well as an above-average glove hand. He has an active stick but gets caught fishing on several occasions.  Reimer’s talent really shines during breakaways, penalty shots and shootouts. Reimer shows extreme poise in these moments and follows the puck really well and will almost always make the save. He is one of the better 1-on-1 goaltenders in the league. He is a very confident goalie and is able to maintain his focus even after letting in a few bad goals. His confidence in himself is comparable to Carey Price’s confidence in himself.

Reimer needs to improve his stamina to play a 60-plus game at the NHL level, at times during his rookie season, as games wore on, he would make a mistake or let in a bad goal to lose the game. He also will need to improve on his rebound control and vision to become a consistent number 1 goaltender for years to come. Reimer is a little sluggish in his lateral movement and will need to improve moving post-to-post

Above all else, Reimer is a hard worker, he works to make every save and will never give up on a play.

Reimer has the athleticism and never say die attitude to make him a great goaltender in the future.  Reimer will become a dependable number one for any team he plays for, don’t be surprised if Reimer struggles through a few games or through a season, like Tim Thomas, Reimer is a battler and he will continue to strive to improve. At the age of 23, Reimer is only getting started.

The three videos below really show everything Reimer when he is at his best. A hard-working, never say die goaltender.

Behind The Bench appears Monday to Friday only on puckpuckgoose.com.

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