is on vacation leaving nothing but the NHL standings to prove he was ever here at all.
During his tenure the Leafs rose from third last to 20th. Reimer’s .921 save percentage was 11th in the league. What matters, of course, are the wins, 20 of them against 10 losses and five overtime defeats.
What also matters, of course, is the ongoing story: the one where the good kid from nowhere gets his chance and laps the field.
It has been two years since James Reimer
of Morweena, Manitoba led the South Carolina Stingrays to the ECHL Championship. Two years since he regularly woke up on the team bus with a face indented by the contours of the floor.
“Sometimes there weren’t enough beds for the players. The rookies would have to sleep on the floor for eight hours before the game,” Reimer said.
“Those are the tough times, but hey, it builds character. It makes you a better person and a better player.”
That James Reimer
has given the Leafs what Andrew Raycroft, Vesa Toskala, Martin Gerber, Jonas Gustavsson
and J.S. Giguere could not is a wonderful story. That Reimer climbed through the Leafs system, grabbed his chance when Giguere went down and never gave it up is inspirational.
But having written an impossible season, the question becomes can he do it again. There are mutterings of a sophomore jinx. Washington’s Jim Carey and Steve Mason of the Columbus Blue Jackets tarred in their first years and slumped soon after.
But the only thing more resolute, more unflagging, than James Reimer
in the crease has been James Reimer
out of it.
His personality, who he is, acts as the only defence against becoming a one-hit wonder. It’s the only one he needs.
“Your core foundation is the same,” Reimer said. “Things that happen or come to be, you’re extremely thankful, but you don’t let it change who you are. I think that goes back to family and my faith as well.
“When I go home, I have an older brother. I‘m his younger brother. I am not necessarily the goalie for the Leafs. People see me for James Reimer
, not number 34. That keeps me grounded and realizing what’s important.”
Between the Leafs and the Marlies, Reimer played 57 games last season. As the undisputed number one goalie, Reimer will be expected to play at least 60 times in the regular season and a bunch more in the playoffs.
The key to staying, Reimer said, lies in the competiveness that got him on the big league roster to begin with.
“You need a little different mind-set, but the foundation of scratching and clawing is the same.” he said. “I have to build on that, not change it.”
Slumps, he said, “happens to goalies and a lot of players. It even happens in the course of a season. That initial energy dies off and you don’t play as well.
“But playing in the NHL is a dream of mine. That’s not going to change because I played some games.”