Much noise has been made about the Leafsâ€™ need to change their goaltending situation this offseason. Iâ€™m choosing to phrase it like that mainly due to the vast differences in opinion about what it really seems to mean. Really, fans just collectively want to know that whatever happens, the result is an improved team. Unfortunately, that may be defined differently than an improved organization, which â€“ at this still-relatively early and unproven stage of what must be considered a full rebuild â€“ should be the true priority.
Prudence really does suggest running with a James Reimer/Ben Scrivens tandem next season and seeing if one of the young goaltenders can claim the #1 starter role beyond question. Patience and public relations may prevent that from happening; if the rumors are to be believed, an outside hire for one of the slots is all but inevitable at this point.
One name in the discussion â€“ rumored, perhaps, far less to this point than he should have been as a candidate for acquisition by Toronto â€“ is the Los Angeles Kingsâ€™ Jonathan Bernier. That doesn’t mean we haven’t discussed him to death. We have. I’m just wondering why he doesn’t emerge more often as the preferred choice.
The playerâ€™s desire to be moved has been confirmed publicly,with Bernier himself saying he expects to be traded before the season starts. Heâ€™s requested to be moved on the basis of opportunity: with Jonathan Quick now cemented as the Kingsâ€™ longterm starter, Bernierâ€™s simply too good of a goaltender to play second fiddle. Drafted in 2006, his NHL exposure has been limited to 48 games. Heâ€™s shutout 5 of those, and posted a .910 SV% and 2.50 GAA in that time. Heâ€™sâ€¦uh, pretty good.
Bernier comes with a cap hit of $1.25 million next season, after which heâ€™s an RFA. He represents a young, blue chip goaltender with high upside. In my mind, thereâ€™s really no reason to believe he has any less of a chance to be the prototypical, bonafide #1 NHL starting goaltender Brian Burke is convinced James Reimer can be (career 71 GP, 2.83 GAA, .911 SV%, 6 SO for comparison). Granted, a reduced stat line is no way to evaluate the goaltenders thoroughly.
Iâ€™m only bringing the issue up, honestly, because of the two Andy Strickland tweets from Wednesday that we’ve already kinda discussed extensively.
â€” Andy Strickland (@andystrickland) July 18, 2012
My humble opinion? If that pick is after 30 and the player isn’t named Phil, Mikhail, Dion, James, Jake, or Joffrey – swing away, Brian.
Though I guess, technically, Andi Petrillo started it all with:
Hearing the Leafs have put in an offer to G Jonathan Bernier.
â€” Andi Petrillo (@andipHNIC) July 17, 2012
But she later Tweeted this…
Anyone else uncomfortable when the waiter stands over you while you use debit/credit machine? I’m always guilted into leaving a huge tip!
â€” Andi Petrillo (@andipHNIC) July 18, 2012
…so, I’m not sure I can accept her as my preferred rumour breaker just yet. Hangin’ on by a thread, @HockeyyInsiderr.
At the end of the day, Toronto has no way of knowing in advance whether or not James Reimer can return to his 2010-2011 form and provide the kind of consistent, clutch goaltending a legitimate playoff contender requires. We all hope he will, and his commitment and demeanour do nothing but suggest heâ€™s certainly capable. But that hope, however founded, is still a gamble.
And Bernier, 48 games into his NHL career, is far from a surefire guarantee. But his acquisition would improve the odds of Burkeâ€™s goaltending gamble substantially. Bernierâ€™s pedigree alone may rank him above Reimer and Scrivens on the Leafsâ€™ depth chart. And all of this discussion â€“ I should point out â€“ is not to discount Ben Scrivens. Iâ€™m a huge fan. I would love to see @scrivens_30 sustain NHL success, and I think he has as much potential as any goaltender in this discussion of doing so.
The basic premise of a successful rebuild involves acquiring as many young, high-upside assets as possible and praying that as high a percentage as possible of those players end up succeeding. (And then, thereâ€™s this whole â€˜developmentâ€™ thing you can do on the side to slightly adjust your odds). The Toronto Maple Leafs have, in Jonathan Bernier, a chance to acquire an age-appropriate goaltender with high upside and an early track record which points toward his eventual fulfillment of that upside. The move displaces one of Reimer or Scrivens from the system â€“ Scrivensâ€™ loss of waiver exempt status next year means an outside acquisition equates one of them having to go â€“ but Bernier is, I would argue, enough of a safe upgrade on both that the chance is worth taking.
Bernier may make us a better team next year â€“ who knows at this point, really? â€“ but his injection into the depth chart undoubtedly increases the organizational health at the position in terms of quality, not just quantity. Our discussion, at this point, really just comes down to personal opinion. How do you rank Bernier, Reimer, and Scrivens in terms of potential and performance? And yes, the order in which I listed them is absolutely, maybe, slightly revealing of my own thoughts on the subject.
If the Leafs can simultaneously upgrade their position of greatest need while getting younger AND increasing longterm potential upsideâ€¦well, as long as Stricklandâ€™s vaguely defined price isnâ€™t ridiculous, I’d call Bernier something of a priority target.
Thursday Morning Links!
–Kyle Quincey is going to be a Detroit Red Wing for two more years. He was a solid acquisition for Detroit in the first place, and a 2-year $7.55 million deal isn’t bad. Quincey’s the definition of “that player you never draft in fantasy leagues because his yearly totals aren’t good, but inevitably pick up off waivers because you can’t help but think that his 38-point season for LA wasn’t a fluke. And because Jay Bouwmeester kinda sucks now.”
–At the Leafs Nation, Andrew Bates asks us whether Phil Kessel needs a #1 centre. I answer him, yes.
–Also at the Leafs Nation, Bates, Dangle, Charron, and and Wright talk about what it means to be a Toronto Maple Leaf.
-And because these awesome, frequent Leafs Nation posts can fill a Mashup links list quickly, JP Nikota suggests the Leafs may be just slightly better equipped for this next hypothetical lockout than they were for the last one. I don’t just agree. I would, in fact, go as far as invoking the phrase, “night and day” on the subject.
-Two days old, but the Winnipeg Jets are conducting their own independent investigation of Ondrej Pavelec’s drunk driving incident. I’m sure one of the first questions will be, “Was the 20-month driving suspension a result of an actual rule somewhere, or a judge being trying to be clever because Twitter’s saying Pavelec was rumoured to blow 0.2%?
-The Toronto Blue Jays’ youthful core are big fans of the Leafs and hockey in general, according to this NHL.com feature piece that pretty much just talks about things we already knew. “I think their sport is probably a little bit more taxing,” admitted a very candidly accurate J.P. Arencibia. Every NHL player ever could not be reached for comment, but if they could, that comment would likely be – “Yeah, no [censored] kidding.”
-Emerging late last night, a little thing happened, like a 14-year, 100+ million offer sheet by the Philadelphia Flyers to Shea Weber.