Sunday, November 30, 2014

Reto Berra Swatch Card

Like many of his teammates, Reto Berra has fallen on tough times with the Colorado Avalanche this season, seemingly on the verge of losing his role as the backup to oft-injured Semyon Varlamov to rookie Calvin Pickard, who was slated to spend the season in the AHL.

Berra's statistics this season do lend themselves to some questioning, with a 2-2-1 record in 9 games, a 3.57 GAA and .883 save percentage, adding to his less-than-stellar stats with the Avs from last year. What has to bother GM Joe Sakic and coach/VP Patrick Roy the most isn't his three-year one-way contract, but the fact that he cost them a second-round pick to be acquired from the Calgary Flames.

The reason why the St. Louis Blues draft pick was with the Flames in the first place was that their head coach, Bob Hartley, took his methods Switzerland for a couple of seasons, and from his time over there came back with the impression that Berra was, by far, the best goalie in the league. And Hartley, who won the Stanley Cup with Roy, Sakic, and the Avs was, according the Roy, ''the best Xs and Os coach I've ever had'', so he must have thought the 6'4'' goalie could provide the Avs with a solution pending Jean-Sébastien Giguère's retirement. Goaltending coach François Allaire was also familiar with him through his European goaltending school based in Switzerland.

In his defense, Berra's been stellar when playing internationally, with a 2.20 GAA in 15 mens' games at the World Championships and Olympics with the Swiss National Team. He even led his team to a silver medal at the 2013 Worlds, and his lone loss to a much better team at the 2014 Olympics was by a 1-0 score.

He's bulky and covers a lot of net, but is also extremely athletic, never giving up on a puck or a play, always making third and fourth efforts to stop the puck from going in, throwing his body around like a goalie from the 1970s or 1980s. His lateral movements are among the fastest in the game, with the likes of Jonathan Quick and Carey Price.

The flipside to that is his knock may be his technique. Allaire might be the best goalie teacher in the world, he has a ways to go with Berra, who is on the ice to have fun and feel the thrill of making a spectacular save, but won't be content with the easy ones. It worked for a few guys - Dominik Hasek, Martin Brodeur, Tim Thomas - but it can't work all the time. There's a reason most goalies still base their technique on the butterfly style: stopping 90% of the pucks has to be a starting point nowadays, not the ultimate goal.

Ironically, on this card, his basic positioning is okay - I'd personally guide him towards getting his catching glove out a little further, but everyone has their own comfort zone:
It's from Panini's 2013-14 Playbook set (card #B-RBE of the Breakout sub-set and part of last season's Dual Rookie Class), showing him wearing the Flames' white (away) uniform, with a decent-sized ''event-worn'' red jersey swatch. It's numbered 54/199.

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