Talking Jonathan Bernier & James Reimer with The Goalie Guild

Talking Jonathan Bernier & James Reimer with The Goalie Guild

by -
1242

The more I think about the Jonathan Bernier trade, the more I realize it was a straight-up judgment call by the Leafs’ pro scouts (led by Steve Kasper, this staff includes Mike Penny, Tom Watt and Rob Cowie.. the trade also likely involved a consultation with amateur scout Mike Palmateer). While Bernier has an edge in pedigree based on his draft position, projecting goaltender development can be alchemy and neither Scrivens or Bernier have significant enough sample sizes to their name to really know what either could become. James Reimer’s biggest workload in a single season is 37 games, so despite what he proved in his first stint as a rookie and then again in the shortened season, there is still a fair amount of projection involved in definitively labeling Reimer a high end starter as well.

Why not turn to goalie scout Justin Goldman, Director of Goalie Scouting at McKeen’s Hockey, for his take?

Whose ceiling would you say is higher? Bernier or Reimer?

Justin Goldman: I would say Bernier’s ceiling is higher. I know the stats don’t necessarily reflect this due to Bernier’s smaller sample size and Reimer’s better-than-expected season, but in terms of which goalie has the higher talent ceiling, I believe that is Bernier. This doesn’t answer the question of who will be more successful in a Leafs uniform next season, but rather who I feel is capable of being more talented at stopping the puck down the line. Remember, sheer talent isn’t everything — those hidden mental traits like work ethic go a long way in winning games. That being said, Bernier has made some great adjustments and tweaks to his style over the past few seasons in limited games played, while I feel like Reimer, who has also made some good adjustments, has more work to do. There’s no way to know how it will play out, so maybe the gap between the two will end up being smaller than I’ve been led to believe through my observations and research. Toronto wouldn’t have invested in a deal like this if they didn’t think Bernier could be as good as Reimer, or better. We’ll just have to wait and see how it all plays out.

What do you make of the concerns about Bernier’s size?

JG: From my perspective, I’m not really worried. One of Bernier’s main strengths is his overall solid positional base for a smaller goalie. He doesn’t over-pursue a lot of shots and he does an excellent job of squaring up to pucks and playing big for his size. His net coverage is better than what you usually see from 5-11 or 6-0 guys. The ones that are thriving in the NHL (Enroth, Bachman) find ways to look and play big…and Bernier is arguably at the top of that list. He’s also made some key changes to play even bigger since his rookie season. This includes adjusting the placement of his glove, and his overall depth management as well. He is also very patient on his skates, to the point where he’ll even make some saves standing up. He also reads plays really well and is way stronger and more physically fit than most people realize. As long as he continues to exhibit those traits on a consistent basis, I think it’s only a matter of time before fans get over the “lack-of-size” concerns. That being said, size is tangible, so this is an area where Reimer has an advantage…and that’s how it always goes with a smaller goalie being compared to a guy 2-3″ taller.

Do you buy into the concerns about Reimer’s glove hand and rebound control? Is Bernier better in those areas?

JG: I’ve seen games where both goalies struggle and excel in both departments, but I don’t think Bernier’s glove hand is as much of an area of concern as it is for Reimer. Every goalie in the NHL will have their glove hand exposed at times because it’s getting harder and harder for guys to catch pucks cleanly. Look at Corey Crawford and what he had to deal with in the Stanley Cup Finals. I also think rebound control is one of those aspects of goaltending where it is as much situational as it is tactical. Sometimes it really just depends on the situation (shot and zone setup dynamics), and on what type of rhythm a goalie is in. Because Bernier has a smaller sample size, I can’t say if he’s legitimately better than Reimer. From my own observations, however, I do think Bernier is better at puck management. That skill includes not only just absorbing and placing initial shots, but how a goalie handles it around his crease area — knowing when to cover and freeze it, knowing when to jump-start a transition with a quick outlet pass, and knowing when to reach out and poke pucks away, or stay “home” and keep the ice sealed. In that regard, I would give the edge in this skill to Bernier. But Reimer, at least in my opinion, seemed to make improvements in that area this season.

You wrote for the Leafs Annual one summer that you didn’t think the Leafs did a particularly good job supporting Reimer, or Gustavsson before him. Does this help/push Reimer, or hurt him by generating a controversy in nets?

JG: How this trade affects Reimer is totally up to him. On the surface, I believe the move will only drive up the competition in goal, and that is almost always a positive in a coach’s and GM’s eyes. It may bother and rattle James at first, but there’s no changing it now, so he’ll have no other option than to work even harder this summer to get better. The trade may not translate to more wins and a second-round playoff berth for the Leafs next season, but it will force both guys to work harder, and the harder you work, the more likely you are to improve. I thought Ben Scrivens did a great job in a support/backup role this past season, but Bernier comes in with a “chip on his shoulder” and something to prove to the hockey world — that he can be a solid, steady, consistent starter. If there’s a controversy, that’s almost always fan and media generated, and an NHL goalie knows that they can only focus on what they can control. So regardless of what’s going on around them, or how they are perceived by the fans and portrayed by the media, I am confident they will both be better as a result of this move. It all comes down to who performs better in the opportunities they get. I like it for that sole purpose — we’re now going to see what both goalies are truly made of, and all the uncertainty surrounding their long-term upside will become more clear as they play more games.

Alec Brownscombe is the founder of MapleLeafsHotStove.com, where he has written daily about the Leafs since September of 2008. He was also the editor of the 2009-12 Maple Leafs Annuals. You can contact him at [email protected]

SIMILAR ARTICLES

1005 comments
Black_Hawk
Black_Hawk

Cant believe the flyers bought out Bryzgalov. What a stupid move. He was gonna return to form this year and be a superstar im sure. 

ingy56
ingy56

Now there's a fake Dreger tweeting...probably the same as fake Jonas

leafmealone
leafmealone

Not sure who else read Friedman's latest 30 thoughts. But if Nonis does manage to get himself a 1C from somewhere this summer than I'm immediately nicknaming that player "the rabbit". Cause Nonis will have had to have done some serious magic to pull him out of the hat.

Later all.

Xxxxxnew
Xxxxxnew

TSNBobMcKenzie: Even teams that have no plans to buy out are hedging a bit to see what trades happen that may affect their cap. Such as MIN, BUF etc.

Xxxxxnew
Xxxxxnew

TSNBobMcKenzie: Following teams, IMO, not likely to buy out: ANA, BOS, BUF, CGY, CAR, COL, CBJ, DAL, FLA, LA, MIN, NJ, NSH, OTT, PHX, SJ, STL, WSH, WPG.

The_Polish_Cannon
The_Polish_Cannon

You honestly think they'll pay millions upon millions of dollars for a second and third round pick? Should be a top prospect and their first at least

Savo43
Savo43

@Black_Hawk His team didn't like him, the media made him out to be a joke, and he hated his coach. The whole situation was cancerous for both of them, it came down to more than goaltending in the end, and im not sure they were gonna see his best under those circumstances. 

Leafs rule
Leafs rule

@Loric76lmao poor james , Reimer - Is currently listed as day-to-day with an upper body injury that's thought to be in the small of his back, since that's where the knife handle is sticking out.

MaxwellHowe
MaxwellHowe

@Xxxxxnew Still no word from NYI.  McKenzie doesn't think they will use a buyout.  Would the Isles really just eat Dipietro's contract until 2020-2021?  Something is happening on this front.

leafmealone
leafmealone

@Xxxxxnew Hmmm, I thought WSH might. They have the cash and the need as it relates to their cap. I know Calgary and Florida have some prime candidates, but didn't think either one was likely for different reasons. None of the other really surprise at all.

I certainly wondered about Leino in Buffalo, but I assume that this "rebuild/re-tool on the fly" is just talk. It appears quite obvious that they're setting themselves up to tank their way to some high draft picks.

ingy56
ingy56

@-Keon- Nope, now a Dion trade would really upset the cart around here. 

leafmealone
leafmealone

@ingy56 Bummer. Was hoping this team wouldn't find the money to retain their RFA's. With Berglund and Shattenkirk now sewn up, and with Pietrangelo being a certainty to get signed, I guess the only potential target would be Stewart.

Area49th
Area49th

@-Keon- GM's have the BS line down, just to make other GMs blink

happy_gilmour
happy_gilmour

@-Keon- source?  why would they confirm that now?  goes against NoNo's comments the last few days

BPsotka
BPsotka

@The_Polish_Cannon One GM basically said John Tavares or no deal for him, if he were in a position to take on a buyout.

leafmealone
leafmealone

@BPsotka @The_Polish_Cannon The point that he wouldn't do it except for Tavares could also be an expression of the reality of his owner firing him for writing that kind of cheque for any less of a return than a Heart nominee. MLSE might see a lesser return than Tavares as an acceptable cost of doing business.

BPsotka
BPsotka

@The_Polish_Cannon That being said, I agree 100% with you. It'd need to be a hell of a lot. Not only would we be losing money, we'd be allowing one of our rivals to stay competitive.

leafmealone
leafmealone

@Pent_House @leafmealone @Xxxxxnew I was thinking Schultz. He's not used under Oates, and has demanded a trade. But I don't think they can find a partner at his salary. And they really could use the wiggle room.

ingy56
ingy56

@-Keon- Me either really, not a huge Dion fan but I do expect the chatter to really pick up if he isn't re-signed  soon. I expect Kessel will get done first too. 

leafmealone
leafmealone

@-Keon- We can go over the cap by 10% or whatever over the summer. There's lots of time to see what develops as a trade market for Liles during the UFA period before we buy him out. And I would still waive him first. I really think someone would take that contract if it didn't cost them anything to do so.

leafmealone
leafmealone

@-Keon- I firmly believe that Liles can be traded. And even if that weren't true, that he could be waived and some team would just take over the contract without giving us anything in return. But the idea that we need to buy him out is just not rational.

leafmealone
leafmealone

@Pent_House @leafmealone @ingy56 Didn't see a cap hit announced. It was only a one year deal though. Which means he stays an RFA at the end of it, as he has two years to go until UFA. I expect that he's done it somewhat cheap so that they can resign others this summer, and then pay him out next summer when the cap should go back up.

Jon520
Jon520

@Great Dane @BPsotka @The_Polish_Cannon we can debate the price but sole concern from a Leaf perspective is......we have the $$$$ to eat a bad conctract, some one elses mistake......what is the highest price we can extract from them(ie nyi) to make our team better.........

BPsotka
BPsotka

@Jon520 @BPsotka @The_Polish_Cannon Probably Strome and their first and one other prospect. Unfortunately their pick isn't as high as the Lightnings. It depends on how strong the leafs brass thinks the draft is as well. Perhaps we'll demand they pick up another team's first rounder and that gets included.