According to the good folks at Sports Club Stats the Toronto Maple Leafs have approximately a 5 percent chance of making the playoffs.Â Yeah, pretty bleak… five out of one hundred times this Leafs team will make the big dance.Â If James Reimer doesnâ€™t continue to play like a Vezina trophy candidate I think we can safely say the Leafs stand no chance at all.
James Reimer (prior to Saturdayâ€™s game) has played in 17 games, sports a 10-4-2 record to go along with a sparkling 2.24 GAA and a shiny .930 save percentage.Â In short, he has played like one of the top goaltenders in hockey during his short stretch as the Maple Leafs number one option.Â His current stats would rank him in sole possession of fifth in the NHL in GAA and second in save percentage (behind only Tim Thomas).
Is anybody convinced that for the remainder of the season Reimer can continue to play at a higher overall level than Roberto Luongo, Jonas Hiller, Jonathon Quick, Henrik Lundqvist, and Tomas Vokoun etc?Â The Maple Leafs have twenty games remaining in their season and theoretically the Leafs could ride Reimer for 17 or 18 starts. Considering how gaudy Reimerâ€™s stats have been, I am worried about one thing – regression.
After Saturdayâ€™s rough outing Reimerâ€™s stats fell (2.39 GAA, .930 save %) but they are still rock solid.Â If I had to guess at what his numbers would look like at seasonâ€™s end I would optimistically say he should end with about a 2.60 GAA and around a .917 save percentage.Â I used the current season stats of Ilya Bryzgalov to come up with the numbers, a fair assessment no?
For Reimer to finish with Bryzgalovâ€™s current numbers there will be some drop-off in his numbers and with about 18 starts left (if the Leafs really ride him down the stretch) it could see him post around a 2.80 GAA and a .905 save percentage.Â Iâ€™d say those are reasonable projections for the rest of the way given some of the unknown factors surrounding Reimer (age, experience etc).Â Those types of numbers are still pretty solid, but the Leafs are going to have to step up their offensive game to continue winning at their current clip.
Let me give you another example of what point I am trying to make and look a sport where regression is looked at pretty much all season.Â Letâ€™s say in the coming baseball season Adam Lind (or whomever) starts the season with a slash line of say 325/425/580 in the month of April (in limited at-bats, small sample size). I think we can safely assume that his stats the rest of the season will likely come back to earth and closer to his career levels (271/322/473).
For that to happen, his numbers will have to come in much lower than his career marks, which brings me back to James Reimer â€“ the Leafs 4th round pick (99th overall) in the 2006 NHL draft.Â Reimer has never put up these types of numbers in any of his previous pro seasons, let alone in the best league in the world.
Letâ€™s look at his career numbers in various leagues:
Clearly goaltenders can and will improve and obviously James Reimer has done just that under the tutelage of esteemed goaltending consultant Francois Allaire, but to think he has all of the sudden developed into literally one of the best goalies in the league is a bit naive.Â Reimer is probably due for a few less than stellar outings if law of averages mean anything.
I hate to pick on the guy after giving up five goals (with a few being of the questionable variety) in front of a pretty shoddy Maple Leafs team on Saturday (against Pittsburgh) and I am definitely not advocating this is what we can expect going forward, but there are a few red flags to worry about.Â One, he has never played more than 30 games in a season since 2006/07 so fatigue could start to be a factor and two he has definitely due for a bit of a correction in his numbers and some cold hard regression.
James Reimer has given us superb goaltending and is one of the biggest reasons the Maple Leafs have a fighting chance at the playoffs, but to expect him to continue playing at this unbelievably high level for the rest of the season is not realistic.Â Letâ€™s hope Reimer can prove me wrong and give the Leafs every opportunity to make a run at the playoffs.
Brian Burke Scours NHL for Defenseman
It is no secret by now that Maple Leafs head honcho Brian Burke is actively searching for an upgrade for his young defence core.Â They could really use a top four type with a bit more experience to insulate Keith Aullie.Â Aulie has shown he has serious potential but has also shown his age and one area his game needs to improve is his first-pass out of the defensive zone.
He can at times struggle and panic when faced with pressure, which has led to a few turnovers and at times untimely goals against.Â Aulie is a minus seven on the season however only a minus 3 since being recalled in early February/2011.Â The future is bright but if the Leafs are going to make a late season push it would be wise to get a guy with more experience for our top defence pairing.
The Leafs have been linked to Colorado Avalanche offensive defenseman John-Michael Liles.Â The latest rumours making the rounds is the Leafs have offered a 3rd round pick (likely Phillyâ€™s pick acquired for Kris Versteeg) for the 31-year old puck mover but the Avalanche are likely holding out for a better deal closer to the NHL trade deadline (Monday, February 28th).
For the season, Liles has 6 goals and 35 assists in 62 games (minus 6 rating) and has a similar skill set to a Tomas Kaberle but he has also scored goals in the past, hitting double digits four times in his NHL career including a career high 14 in 2006/07.Â He has 270 total points in 509 career games and carries a $4.2MM cap hit for two more seasons.