The competition, such as it was, is over, and Jonathan Bernier has been named the Kings’ backup goaltender over Erik Ersberg. In the end, Ersberg never even got into a preseason game, and his chances of making the team (not terribly strong to begin with, in all honesty) took a huge hit early in training camp when he hurt his hand. Conversely, Bernier looked sharp throughout camp and came in with the type of attitude the Kings were looking for. Ersberg might have the option of returning to Europe — he played three seasons in Sweden before the Kings signed him — or perhaps he might see if there is waiver-wire interest. Regardless, Bernier will be the Kings’ backup. After tonight’s morning skate, Terry Murray talked about Bernier and was quick (no pun intended) to throw cold water on the idea of a Quick/Bernier competition…
Question: This is your third camp with Bernier, and he has had some ups and downs. Is it fair to say that you got what you were looking for from him, both on and off the ice, this time?
MURRAY: “As you say, this is my third camp with him, but as you remember, we called him up a couple years for a game in Minnesota, just as a backup, and he was heading in the right direction. You could see an improvement in his game, in his work ethic, but it wasn’t good enough. But he continued to build on that, and came into the development camp a year ago this past July, and I was very impressed with his overall physical and mental condition. His work ethic in that development camp was outstanding, and he brought it to camp last year. His progress was right on target. The decision was so correct last year, to have him go back and play. He had an outstanding year. He’s ready to make a move. So this camp has been everything I expected, as far as the work. The play in the games has been very good, so he gets to play in this game here tonight.”
Question: With the type of numbers Bernier was putting up last year, did you ever take a glance and think about what it would have been like to have him here?
MURRAY: “I didn’t. No, I did not, because we had a goaltender right here doing the same thing. Jonathan Quick’s game last year was outstanding. He grabbed the No. 1 position and never backed off on that hold during any time of the year. I wasn’t hoping or wishing. We were very comfortable with the goaltending. I was very happy with Jonathan Quick last year.”
Question: Bernier is accustomed to being a starter, at the junior level and in the AHL. What kind of adjustments will he have to make, in order to deal with being a backup?
MURRAY: “I think that for goaltenders who are put in that situation, it’s an adjustment. It’s an understanding. It’s coming to deal with that now, before things do get started, and understanding what that role is. In Bernier’s case, he is our No. 2 goaltender. He’s going to be the backup to Jonathan Quick, and he’s going to get a taste of the full season in the National Hockey League. So there is an understanding that he has to come to, that he’s here to be a part of the team, to work in tandem with Quick and be the best they can be as a pair, to play for the L.A. Kings and help us be successful. It’s not a competition. That’s an understanding that needs to be in place, and that’s through a meeting with me in the next few days. This is not a competition. This is about working together, supporting, cheering hard for each other and having everybody do the right stuff for the L.A. It’s about the team only.”
Question: Do you go into the season with a specific plan for which games Bernier will play, or does that remain fluid?
MURRAY: “I will take a look at that. I have taken a look at it. I have talked about it and thought about it quite often. I think I have mentioned this to the media in the past, that I want to make sure that Bernier would be staying fresh, staying involved, participating in a game a week. That ends up, I think, giving me a pretty good number (of games played) for both goaltenders at the end of the day. Clearly the No. 1 gets upward of that high-50s number. So everybody is ready and everybody is sharp and, mentally, you’re totally bought into the team.”
Question: Looking back on it, not just in training camp but last season, are you confident that Ersberg got a fair shake?
MURRAY: “Oh yeah, he got a fair shake. Sure. I’m going back to the beginning. There was certainly an opportunity, when he was playing. What sometimes happened, though, is what happened here. We made a decision by bringing Jonathan Quick up from the minors, and he stepped in and took over, basically. We were looking for something really good to happen in that area. Jason LaBarbera was good, but Jonathan Quick came in and he was just better. He took over the net, and I was very excited about that, to see a young guy come in and establish himself in that area. I look back over last year, with Quick again, and it was just kind of the same scenario. He wouldn’t relinquish the net. He played great. He was one of our most important players, key players, every game. So I found it very difficult to have him relinquish the net. We were really a good team at the start. We had the jump and we had the position in the standings that we wanted. It was a team thing, but Quick is the guy that’s in the net. Then, as we got to a time where we were slipping a little bit, after we got through that Olympic break, that might have been a time to say, `OK, we need Quicker to get a little bit of a break.’ I mention this again. He comes back from the Olympics and he hasn’t seen a lot of pucks over a two-week period. But now this is the critical time, so you’ve got to keep going with your No. 1 guy.”