Throughout history, the Leafs hadnâ€™t exactly been known as a goalie factory. Deviations and examples contrary to that rule existed (Felix Potvin) but for the most part every goaltender that the Leafs Nation lauded and admired came with an already built NHL credibility.
Goalies such as Curtis Joseph, Ed Belfour even Johnny Bower werenâ€™t new to the league when they first put on the Maple Leaf colors. While all know that James Reimer had a great season, hereâ€™s where it statistically ranks amongst all recent Maple Leaf rookie goaltenders.
The criterion I used for defining what constitutes as a rookie season is the currently valid Hockey Operations Guideline. Based on those guidelines, I identified the rookie seasons of all the goalies that had their first NHL experience in a Leafs uniform during a 20 year period.
To be considered a rookie, a player must not have played in more than 25 NHL games in any preceding seasons, nor in six or more NHL games in each of any two preceding seasons. Any player at least 26 years of age (by September 15th of that season) is not considered a rookie.
So, here we go, to start things off we have the Monster’s somewhat solid rookie season:
Jonas Gustavsson in 09-10, .902 SP, 2.87 GAA, 1146 shots faced, 42 games played in, 16-15-9 record, 1 shutout
Mikael Tellqvist in 03-04, .895 SP 2.87 GAA, 293 shots faced, 11 games played in, 5-3-2 record, 0 shutouts
Marcel Cousineau in 96-97, .902 SP, 3.29 GAA, 317 shots faced, 13 games played in, 3-5-1 record, 1 shutout
Damian Rhodes in 93-94, .902 SP, 2.62 GAA, 541 shots faced, 22 games played in, 9-7-3 record, 0 shutouts
Felix Potvin in 92-93, .910 SP, 2.50 GAA, 1286 shots faced, 48 games played in, 25-15-7 record, 2 shutouts
Peter Ing in 90-91, .883 SP, 3.84 GAA, 1716 shots faced, 56 games played in, 16-29-8 record, 1 shutout
James Reimer 10-11, .921 SP, 2.60 GAA, 1134 shots faced, 37 games played in, 20-10-5 record, 3 shutouts
To find a similarly stellar Leafs goalie rookie season, one would have to wind the clock back to 76-77 and Mike Palmateer when he played 50 games with a 23-18-8 record, a 3.21 GAA.
Names like Jeff Reese during the 88-89 season or Allan Bester in 83-84 donâ€™t come even close. Ken Wreggetâ€™s and Vincent Tremblayâ€™s rookie seasons only merit a mention because they in fact had their rookie years in a Leaf uniform. Statistically speaking, what this basically tells us is that James Reimer had the best rookie goalie season in a Leafs uniform during a 35 year period. Actually, I would argue that outside of Felix Potvinâ€™s miraculous rookie year, no goalie in that period had a rookie season that resembled anything to what Reimer did when called up. And that fact, more than any other, puts things into perspective.