Coming off a season in which he led the Toronto Maple Leafs to their first playoff berth in eight seasons, it would have been easy for goaltender James Reimer to take the acquisition of Jonathan Bernier personally, instead Reimer says he's looking forward to the competition and intends to support the former Kings backup as much as he can.
“First and foremost we wear the same jersey, so you're a good guy, you're a good teammate and you look out for your teammates, but aside from that, both of us are going to want to be the starter and definitely I want to keep that and want to be the guy for our team and be the guy that wins us a cup,” Reimer said.
“That'll add some good competition and hopefully we can push each other and pile up a lot of wins for our team.”
Speaking with Gareth Wheeler Wednesday on Blue Lunch on TSN 1050, the 25-year-old incumbent said he's focused on winning the no. 1 job, but it won't be at the expense of undermining his teammate.
“It's really important to get along,” Reimer said. “I think when you do and you play similar and you're on the same page, I think it gives you another set of eyes, almost like a goalie coach sitting on the bench watching you play every game.”
Despite battling through a strained MCL which caused him to miss seven games, the fourth-year pro posted the best save percentage and goals against marks of his career.
Having to battle his way up from the AHL and East Coast League, Reimer is used to having to prove his worth to coaches and management.
“It shouldn't really matter who's behind you or who's ahead of you when you step onto the ice and you're the guy in net, you want to stop as many pucks as possible and that's the kind of mentality I'll take,” he said.
Coming off the team's first playoff appearance since prior to the 2004-05 lockout, GM Dave Nonis took an active approach in the off-season adding forwards Dave Bolland and David Clarkson in addition to Bernier.
“They'll bring a lot to our team, obviously being from the Toronto area that adds a little jump in their step,” Reimer said of the Mimico natives. “Anytime you're playing in front of family and friends it's an extra boost…They're great universal players that can play in many different situations.”
Possessing an ability to play a two-way game as well as having an element of toughness is something which should allow the Leafs to better compete with the upper-echelon teams in the Conference according to Reimer.
“You look at the top teams in the league who have been successful over the last couple of years and they're gritty, hard-working teams and when you go into their barn you know it'd going to be a battle.”
Although Nonis was comfortable spending big dollars to sign Clarkson and Tyler Bozak, he has yet to come to terms with restricted free agents Nazem Kadri and Cody Franson.
For his part, Reimer hopes the sides can come together, saying both Franson and Kadri were a “big part of our success (last season).
“They were huge components of our team and our success and obviously as a fellow teammate you and them to get a fair price because that's what they deserve and that's what they've earned.”