James Reimer says his rift with Toronto Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle was blown out of proportion.
Appearing on The Jeff Blair Show Monday, the goaltender admitted he didn’t always agree with his coach last season but said he does not have any reservations about playing for him.
“In all honesty, I’ve always defended (Carlyle). Maybe we didn’t see eye-to-eye last year,” Reimer said on Sportsnet 590 The Fan. “But that has no bearing on his ability to coach. Sometimes you don’t see eye-to-eye. I have a lot of respect for him. I think he’s a great coach. He’s won a Cup. I have no qualms at all about playing for him again.”
LISTEN NOW: James Reimer’s full interview with Jeff Blair
Reimer was believed to have a rocky relationship with Carlyle after a difficult season in which the 26-year-old saw his playing time diminish following the acquisition of Jonathan Bernier. After leading the Leafs to their first playoff appearance since 2003-04 two seasons ago, Reimer appeared in just 36 games last season, posting a .911 save percentage and an ugly 3.26 goals-against average.
He began 2013-14 as the opening-night starter, but Reimer was caught giving Carlyle a death stare when he was pulled early in a contest against the Detroit Red Wings on Dec. 21 and later challenged the coach’s assessment of his play following a 3-2 loss to Detroit in March.
“So he said, ‘I was just OK’? I thought I was good,” Reimer told reporters. “You know, I don’t know if I was great, and I would like to be great. I thought I made some good saves when I needed to, and unfortunately at the end, especially that third one, you want to come and make a big save for your team there.”
After a roller-coaster season for the team that included an epic collapse down the stretch, Reimer believed his time with the Maple Leafs was over. But now he has a new, two-year contract with a salary cap hit of $2.3 million.
“I felt that the door was closed there. It felt like things were heading in a different direction,” Reimer said Monday. “Over the course of the summer, things have changed. Obviously signing the new (two-year) contract, things have taken a 180 (degree turn) from there. I’m excited to come back. It’s not a case where I wanted to leave but I thought that things were kind of done there. I’m real excited to have another opportunity and kind of a new start.
“I think we have a talented group and have what it takes to make a good run.”
Reimer said he is excited to be back with Carlyle and the Leafs and believes he has a chance to compete with Bernier in training camp for the starting position.
“I was told there is a definite opportunity,” he said. “That’s the mindset I’m coming in with—to really take advantage of the opportunity that’s going to be given and really earn that No. 1 spot. I learned a lot (last year) about expectations and about to handle expectations and how to handle different types of adversity and pressure. Things didn’t go the way we wanted as a team and for me personally at the end but I grew a lot and I look forward to being the guy this year.”
In four seasons with Toronto, Reimer has registered .914 save percentage with a goals-against average of 2.84 in 140 career games.