If recent speculation coupled with his expanding cold streak means anything, Toronto may very well be bidding James Reimer adieu after this season. With Jonathan Bernier’s addition to the roster last summer and his top league standing as a goalie, people wonder if Reimer will stick around and continue to play under Leaf coach, Randy Carlyle. Many feel that Carlyle hasn’t really been fair to Reimer this season but others still believe that he’s made the right decisions for the team by allowing Bernier the greater amount of playing time.
Don Cherry splits the onus between Reimer for his obvious loss of confidence contributing to his recent descent and also on Carlyle whom Cherry says needs to give a bit more support and encouragement to his player. Cherry says that Reimer will likely benefit the most to move on to another team where he holds the top spot and doesn’t have to compete with a goalie that is so close to his level of play.
Add to these facts that fans are making his challenge personal by attacking his wife, April, on social media and anyone might believe he would be crazy to stick around for more of the same in Toronto next season. The only saving grace in recent events has been the outpouring of support from his teammates and other loyal fans in defending both he and his wife.
And that is worrisome for a team like the Leafs who need to have strong, consistent goaltending at every single game. They can’t afford to only have one top level goalie and they should be very careful not to risk losing either of these players. With Reimer a restricted free agent, he’ll be free to decide his own fate come summer and thus it may be best if they try to placate him and keep him in the contenders circle for the role of starter.
The fact is, Bernier has definitely had the better season so far with his numbers currently sitting higher than Reimer’s .911 at .925. In the past, Reimer has showed a slightly higher trend at about .917, matching him fairly evenly with Bernier from the perspective of raw talent. Talent is rarely enough, however, and if Reimer is not feeling the support from his team’s coaches and if he and his family are constantly under attack from the fans, it stands to reason that he’ll take advantage of his RFA status and try to find himself a new home where he can feel both challenged and respected for his game play.
Frankly, that will be a loss for the Leafs organization and, though they may not all realize it, also the fans. Anyone can be subject to a down cycle in play which could turn around under the right circumstances and it is not inconceivable that Jonathan Bernier could suffer a similar cold spell in the future. Without a top notch replacement available to save the Toronto team from impending doom, they are setting themselves up to be placed into a position of vulnerability.