Saturday, 22 March 2014

The Problem Isn't In Net

Today, I am pretty disgusted with Maple Leaf fans. I understand that you care about your team, and that losses at this time of the season could be the difference between facing Tampa Bay and Boston in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. I get that. However, I'm not entirely sure why everyone seems to believe that James Reimer is to blame for the recent play of the Maple Leafs team. And I also know his wife, April, has nothing to do with the Leafs playing poorly down the stretch.

To every single Maple Leafs fan who took to Twitter tonight to rip April Reimer, you're gutless. GUTLESS. You disgust me to the point where I am enraged. Personally, if I were James Reimer, I'd tell the Maple Leafs that I was done for the season. He certainly doesn't need to feel the venom you're spewing. But to direct it at his wife is pure gutlessness and cowardice. I cannot stress that enough.

Here's something all you Leaf fans who tweeted Mrs. Reimer should consider: the men patrolling the blue line in blue-and-white are pretty horrible. It's time to accept that reality. You need to hear it here, you gutless cowards, so I'm gonna lay it out for you.

Your blue line gives up too many shots in general, and way too many quality scoring chances overall. They rank dead-last in the NHL for shots-against-per-game (SAPG) at 36.2 every night Bernier or Reimer takes to the nets. Buffalo, who is the worst team in the NHL and ranks 29th in SAPG, gives up nearly two shots less per game every night. To put that in perspective, if an average NHL player scores on 10% of his shots (for argument's sake), that's an extra sixteen goals surrendered per season more than Buffalo because your defence couldn't get the job done.

Secondly, the Maple Leafs are 25th in shots-for-per-game at 28.0. While the defence isn't responsible for generating the offence as a whole, they can do something about the average shot differential seen in their game. The Maple Leafs average 8.2 shots less per game than they take which would mean, as a whole, their puck possession game is terrible. Buffalo, in comparison, takes 8.3 shots less per game as the NHL's worst team. In other words, there isn't much of a difference the two teams' defences when it comes to how they play.

When it comes to James Reimer's play, people will point at his record since the calendar flipped to 2014 and say, "Teebz, he's a god-awful 3-10 in since January 1". I can't dispute that fact whatsoever. However, in six of those losses, the score was decided by two goals or less. In those thirteen games, the Maple Leafs were outscored 32-56. While there is blame that Reimer can accept for some of those 56 goals, not all of them are his fault and I can assure you that April Reimer was responsible for exactly zero of them.

No one is suggesting that Reimer can't be better. I'm pretty sure that all goaltenders strive to be better just as any other player does, but the law of averages say that he will get scored on more often than other goaltenders who face less shots. His .910 save percentage is better than Ottawa's Craig Anderson, Dallas' Tim Thomas, Nashville's Pekka Rinne, and New Jersey's Martin Brodeur, so it's not like he's not making saves. However, the rub is that he's faced more shots in less games than guys like Edmonton's Ben Scrivens, New Jersey's Cory Schneider, and Vancouver's Eddie Lack. And all three of those players, who have played mostly as backups, have appeared in more games and have better save percentages on less shots. See the correlation?

If you don't, let me spell it out for you. Less shots-against means less goals-against. Less goals-against means better save percentages. Better save percentages means more wins. And more wins means less gutless, cowardly attacks on a goaltender's wife's social media account.

If there is anyone to blame for this mess, look at the Leafs blue line and front office. Dave Nonis' team can't stop teams from driving rubber at the net, Carlyle's systems aren't preventing shots from being taken, and the Leafs' defencemen don't block enough shots and don't prevent enough shots. It's pretty simple when you sit down and look at the numbers.

If I'm James Reimer, I'm demanding a trade out of Toronto the moment the Stanley Cup is awarded. Neither he nor April deserves the treatment that a faction of Leaf fans seem to think is appropriate, and he's been the whipping boy in Toronto too long. And to April Reimer, I apologize for what some of these people said to you on Twitter. You certainly deserve a lot better than to have your husband cheered by gutless cowards.

The other problem this team has is with this horsepoop reaction that saw fans tweet some vile stuff to April Reimer. I hope that you're happy that you've tarnished all Leaf fans with your gutless acts. Everyone gets a little tougher behind the anonymity of their smartphone screens and computer screens. Instead, all I see is a collection of cowards.

Here's a quick life lesson: if you wouldn't say it to April Reimer in real-life, what gives you the right to say it on social media? No, you're the cowards who rip the team online and then beg James Reimer for an autograph the next time he's out in public. And that sickens me. Look, if you took to Twitter to rip the Reimers after tonight's loss to Montreal, I implore you to take a good long look in the mirror over the next couple of days. And I mean really look at yourself and ask if you're proud of what you did. While I doubt any of you who participated in tonight's evisceration of April Reimer will feel any remorse for what was said, just know that the rest of the world still sees you as...

Until next time, let this be a lesson for all of us.

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