What does the future hold for Bernier?
This has been an outstanding season for Jonathan Quick, which is good news for the Kings in general and Quick specifically, but what about Jonathan Bernier? Last season, Bernier played 25 games and did a solid job, particularly in the second half of the season. This season, Bernier has appeared in only nine games. Most notably of late, Darry Sutter chose Quick to start both games in a back-to-back set against Calgary and Edmonton, rather than give Bernier a start. Quick did just fine, but what does that mean long-term, both for the Kings and Bernier? Bernier is on pace to appear in only 15 games. Is that too much work for Quick?
And what does it mean for Bernier? A former first-round pick, Bernier is 23 years old and is highly regarded around the league as a potential future NHL No. 1 goalie. Assuming the Kings eventually lock up Quick to a long-term contract — he’s due to be an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2013 — what does that mean for Bernier? Bernier is also under contract through 2012-13, but might the Kings look to trade him before then? One would have to think that any of the teams with goaltending issues — and there are several — would love to have Bernier, but is he playing enough to generate a strong trade offer?
Bernier has a 2.73 goals-against average and an .895 save percentage this season. Overall, that’s not exactly stellar, but Bernier, after a wobbly start, has allowed two or fewer goals in each of his last five starts. Mostly because Quick has been so exception, Bernier isn’t playing much. Quick has appeared in 40 games. Only Ottawa’s Craig Anderson (44), Nashville’s Pekka Rinne (42), Calgary’s Miikka Kiprusoff (41) and Carolina’s Cam Ward (41) have appeared in more games.
Bernier has played 528 minutes, 10 seconds, this season. Among full-time backups, only five goalies have played fewer minutes, and four of them are older (over 30) backups. The most comparable situation is in Nashville. Backup goalie Anders Lindback is 23 and has played only 452 minutes, 7 seconds, this season. To his credit, Bernier hasn’t complained. It’s not the easiest of jobs, being a backup goalie who is thrust into action only once every couple of weeks. That said, I asked Sutter whether he had any specific conversations with Bernier about staying sharp despite the lack of game time…
SUTTER: “No. That’s his job. Our season, one season ends on Monday and another one starts a week after that [after the All-Star break). That’s the way I look at it. If players aren’t staying sharp in practice, that’s going to be their problem, not mine. He’s [Bernier] been fine. He’s been awesome. What more do you want? Obviously he probably wants to play more, but it’s about winning games right now. We’re in a playoff battle, and when he goes in, he better look at it like it’s Game 7.’’
Question: Do you sit down and map out a plan for games, in terms of the goalies?
SUTTER: “I think everybody that’s got an ace (goalie) does that, tries to, but very seldom does that hold. Especially when you’re in a year when your team gets an eight-day break. That’s when you have to try to manage that. Quite honestly, we have 32 (games) left after the break and we have six back-to-backs and a lot of road games. So you have to think that he’s [Bernier] going to play more than he did in the first 50.’’