There is an unusual resiliency in James Reimer the Leafs nominee for the Masterton Trophy given to the NHLer who shows perseverance, dedication and sportsmanship.
Sportsmanship. He says nothing but nice things about anyone. James Reimer is Richter scale nice, nuclear nice. Another check.
But dedication and sportsmanship are minor elements in the Masterton debate. It’s really an award about perseverance.
On the surface, Reimer’s stick-to-itness is just slightly above grade. He has rebounded very nicely from a head injury this year to continue the steady progression of his career.
You can even argue the moderate improvement in Reimer’s statistics from two years ago (a save percentage up to .926 from .921 and a goals against of 2.38 from 2.60) is due to Randy Carlyle’s defensive diligence.
Take another look at Reimer’s career.
He didn’t play organized hockey until he was 12, at least five years after many of his peers. That first year was a church league.
The WHL’s Red Deer Rebels viewed him as the fifth-round midget pick that he was. Reimer was cut twice and won only seven of 34 games in his first full season with Red Deer.
Ten goalies were chosen ahead of him in the NHL draft by the time the Leafs took Reimer in the fourth round behind Jiri Tlusty and Nikolai Kulemin. Reimer didn’t bother attending the draft because he considered his prospects so dim.
If Reimer was looking for an immediate vote of confidence he didn’t get it. The Leafs signed him for the league minimum in 2008 and Reimer began his career playing for South Carolina and Reading in the East Coast League. He was not considered a top prospect with the Marlies but got his shot with the Leafs because of injuries and profoundly poor play by Jonas Gustavsson and J.S. Giguere.
Reimer began this season as the team’s number one question mark and endured daily speculation about the Leafs intention to acquire Roberto Luongo.
And yet Reimer has been the principal factor in the team’s return to the playoffs.
Reimer credits God with his resilience and patience which fits.
“If you go to the religious side, patience is a virtue that you want to have,” Reimer said recently. “If I’m meant to get to the NHL then I will get to the NHL. All I have to do is work hard and honour God by how I handle myself and by how hard I work.
You have to admit, he has a way of hanging around. Who knew you could wrap niceness around a spine of steel?