Last year, fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs were witness to the rapid ascension of James Reimer. A guy who started the season behind at least two goalies on the organizational depth chart, Reimer had a solid pre-season and a season-salvaging regular season.
After winning 20 games and posting a .921 save percentage, there are a lot of Leaf fans left wondering what exactly we should be expecting from Reimer next year and I'm one of them. You have to love what you've seen from the guy so far, but goaltending more than any other position seems to be prone to statistical aberrations. I decided to run a couple of comparisons and here's what I came up with.
James Reimer was 22 years old last season. If we compare goalies post-lockout who were 23 or younger and posted GAAs of 2.70 or better and SV% of .915 or better we end up with this:
Tuuka Rask (2009-10, age 22): .931
Carey Price (2010-11, age 23): .923
Henrik Lundqvist (2005-06, age 23): .922
James Reimer (2010-11, age 22): .921
Marc Andre Fleury (2007-08, age 23): .921
Carey Price (2007-08, age 20): .920
Steve Mason: (2008-09, age 20): .916
Only six goalies fit into this category (Carey Price has accomplished these kind of numbers twice) and the list includes some pretty impressive names. As you can see, Reimer's save percentage is bested only by Rask among those his age or younger.
Goals Against Average
Tuuka Rask (2009-10, age 22): 1.97
Henrik Lundqvist (2005-06, age 23): 2.24
Steve Mason: (2008-09, age 20): 2.29
Marc Andre Fleury (2007-08, age 23): 2.33
Carey Price (2010-11, age 23): 2.35
Carey Price (2007-08, age 20): 2.56
James Reimer (2010-11, age 22): 2.60
Things aren't quite as promising when you look at it from the perspective of goal against average. Other than Price's season in 2007-08, the rest post GAA numbers significantly better than Reimer's. Having said that, it's still an impressive list of goaltenders. Here's the link to the sortable table on hockey-reference.com.
Intuitively I'm sure you all know that some of these guys didn't exactly maintain the same level of excellence the following season. I decided to look at their numbers the next year to try and get a handle on what we should be expecting out of Reimer.
Tuuka Rask (2010-11): In limited duty (Tim Thomas was record-breaking-good which relegated the young netminder to the bench), Rask put up a .918 save percentage and a 2.67 goals against average.
Carey Price (2008-09): Carey Price faltered after his rookie campaign, posting a .905 save percentage and a 2.83 goals against average.
Henrik Lundqvist (2006-07): Lundqvist followed his breakout season up with a very strong .917 save percentage and a 2.34 goals against average.
Steve Mason (2009-10): Steve Mason struggled in his second season in the NHL posting a .901 save percentage and an abysmal 3.06 goals against average.
Marc Andre Fleury (2008-09): Fleury was sound in goal, putting up a respectable .912 save percentage and a 2.67 goals against average. He also won 35 games that year so he certainly did enough to help his team win.
As we can see, when it comes to young goalies there is often a regression following a strong breakout season. Lundqvist was able to maintain very strong numbers, Rask and Fleury were respectable though unspectacular while Mason and Price were well below average.
The likelihood of Reimer replicating the kind of season he had to start this year is far from a sure thing. You have to like his prospects longterm though as he's keeping some pretty elite company.