Sunday, August 9, 2020

Jonathan Bernier Autographed Card

I really wasn't sure which story-line I wanted to purse tonight, with most recent results going the way I had hoped. After seriously considering featuring someone from the Columbus Blue Jackets (winners), Washington Capitals (winners), Boston Bruins (losers), Dallas Stars (winners) or St. Louis Blues (losers), I opted with a former member of the Toronto Maple Leafs (losers, eliminated), Jonathan Bernier.

A first-round draft pick (11th overall in 2006, Los Angeles Kings), he sat on the sidelines and watched Jonathan Quick win a Conn Smythe Trophy from the sidelines, awaiting his turn like he had in Juniors when he was slotted behind Jaroslav Halak only to take over upon the Slovak goalie's move to the professional ranks and lead the Lewiston MAINEiacs to a LHJMQ championship and Memorial Cup berth.

Except his turn would never come in L.A., so he asked for a trade anywhere to have a shot at a #1 spot, and the Leafs came calling, offering the Kings Matt Frattin, Ben Scrivens and a second-round pick for Bernier's services. The Toronto media wrote flattering pieces on him at first, but turned on him within three years despite very good statistics with the team:
from HockeyDB
I mean: a .922 save percentage over 55 games in 2013-14, with a 26-19-7 record while his backup James Reimer went 12-16-1 under Randy Carlyle; a 2.87 GAA, .912 save percentage and 21-28-7 record while Reimer was at 3.16, .907 and 9-16-1 in 2014-15, as the media got the 21-16-3 Carlyle fired and his replacement, Peter Horacek, went a lowly 9-28-5 to close out the year in agony; and get this, 3 shutouts in 38 games in 2015-16, Mike Babcock's first season with the team, which finished with a 29-42-11 record (Reimer and Garret Sparks combined for a single shutout in 49 combined appearances).

The leading scorer for Babcock's Leafs? Nazem Kadri, with 45 points.

Bernier was made one of the scapegoats, but he was put in an impossible position, that of holding down the fort while the team was failing on purpose (i.e. "tanking") to put itself in position to draft high-level prospects and move on from the failed Phil Kessel era.

Carlyle took him on with the Anaheim Ducks for the 2016-17 season, and he was terrific, going 21-7-4 with a 2.51 GAA, a .915 save percentage and 2 shutouts in 38 games to restore his reputation as a dependable netminder, and the following season with the Colorado Avalanche was more of the same (19-13-3, 2.85, .913, 2 shutouts in 37 games).

Unfortunately, the starting jobs are pretty much taken everywhere, and with the salary cap, teams stick with their #1 guy even through bad seasons because they're stuck with the cap hit and term, so they brace themselves for a year and hope for the best the following season, a recipe that works (Craig Anderson) as often as it doesn't (Quick).

So, for the last couple of seasons, Bernier has been eating a ton of rubber in front of the Detroit Red Wings' net, staying in shape in case a contending team comes calling, making acrobatic saves to impress the few people left in the stands before GM Steve Yzerman turns things around.

Who knows, maybe a former employer like current Edmonton Oilers GM Ken Holland (who hired him with the Wings) will give him a call for next season?

Because no matter what the Toronto media says, he has yet to cost his team a season and is a fine stop-gap solution in front of the net. Furthermore, he's still just 32 and has two or three more good years in him.

Here he is in Leafs white (the "away" uniform), on card #76 from Upper Deck's 2013-14 SPX set:
It's a great-looking set, with enough foil to look classy and complementary colours to keep the theme running while keeping a classic "card feel". He signed it in blue sharpie after a 4-2 loss to the Habs while with the Avalanche, in January 2018.

After this season's failure to qualify for the "real" playoffs, my guess is the Toronto media will turn on goalie Freddie Andersen this summer, GM Kyle Dubas the next and team President Brendan Shanahan the one after that, forcing yet another rebuild on a team that hasn't won a Stanley Cup since 1967 (or a playoff series in 15 years).

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