TSN goaltending expert and Leafs Lunch co-host Jamie McLennan discussed the Toronto Maple Leafs’ hire of goaltending coach Steve Briere and the Jonathan Bernier contract situation this afternoon.
On new Leaf goalie coach Steve Briere:
In doing some reconnaissance on him, when I saw the name come across the board, I was like, “this name looks familiar,” so I ultimately hockeydb him, and saw he played in Fife in England when I was in England during the lockout. So, I played against this guy. And then, it starts to hit me. I’m driving in, and I call a buddy who I trust, and I’m like, “Steve Briere.” And he’s like, “yeah, he’s a Mitch Korn disciple.” And then I put two and two together – I’ve worked on the ice with this guy before. This guy is going to be an outstanding hire for the Toronto Maple Leafs. He’s bright. Mitch Korn, for people who don’t know, in the goaltending coaching circle is known as Yoda. He’s this tiny, little, really wise man. Mitch Korn is known as one of the best goalie coaches on the planet. This guy worked underneath him. It wouldn’t surprise me if Mitch Korn was asked as a character reference, “who is an up and coming guy?” Briere, 38 years old, young, progressive… from my understanding he does a psychology of a goaltender as well as the drills. I think this is an outstanding hire by the Leafs. Again, off the board, you’re not recycling an old [coach]. It’s a progressive hire. I think this is an outstanding hire. I don’t know if they’re done yet; I don’t know if they’re going to have [something] like a goaltending development area. They’ve got an analytics sector; in player development, Scott Pellerin took over for Steve Staios. So, he’s doing an outstanding job; I had a conversation with him the other day, he’s a former teammate of mine…. they’re heading in the right direction. This is another nice hire that is kind of under of the radar — off the board — but all the guy needs is experience.
On the Jonathan Bernier contract situation:
For me, Bernier started 55 games last year. The year before, he started 49. So there’s a projection: You can get him over 60 this year and see what you have in him. You continue to talk to people about what is his skillset, what is his ceiling? Well, we’ve yet to see it. Now, his development has been hampered a bit by the watered down product — not a great team in front of them, not a great system, so he hasn’t been protected any nights. You look at other teams — and I say this with all due respect — Jonathan Quick, who I think is an elite goaltender, there are nights where he is shielded because the team is really good and they play with solid defensive structure in front of him. Devan Dubnyk had a season for the ages last year. Minnesota doesn’t give anything up defensively. But the Toronto Maple Leafs — it’s not only the shots against, but the high quality chances against. If you’re a goaltender and you weren’t on your game night in, night out for the Maple Leafs, you got exposed, and you got hit hard.
Craig Button brought up a great point about Jonathan Bernier’s potential arbitration case. He’s got nothing but leverage, because there’s no two-year selection in this. It’s either a one year, or you negotiate for a multi-year deal in front of that. He’s going to say, “okay, you put in for one year, I’m going to do it, but I’m unrestricted after that one year.” So if you want to protect that asset, you’ve got to decide what you have. If he goes to arbitration and he gets a one year award at whatever number — let’s just say four, for a round number — he’s unrestricted at the end of it. So he actually has leverage going into it, saying “if you want to avoid arbitration with me, and you want me on a multi year deal, it’s going to cost you more because you’re going to buy some of my unrestricted free agent years.” Take a look at the leverage he has because, if you believe he’s your number one guy for the next couple years, he’s unrestricted after this year. You’ve got to decide; you may have to pay him a little bit more than conventional. I’m not going to compare, but Devan Dubnyk took term, he took less money ultimately. He may be in that ballpark — it wouldn’t be a five, but it would be just under five million a year.
Jonathan Bernier [could be] the same type of thing [as Kadri]. Let’s go to arbitration, let’s take a one year. Hey, if you end up nailing it out of the park, you’re going to get a massive deal on long term. Ultimately, I think I like that onus shifted from the organization back onto the player. You want to get paid? Go out and play. Go show what you’re worth. That’s the one thing — in today’s world, you’re paying for what you think the player is going to be. It used to be, at 31, the guy was getting paid for what he had done. You’re looking back and going, “geez, the guy just got a long term deal, a five-six year deal, because he’s been a great player.” Now you’re looking at the Ryan O’Reilly’s of the world and saying, “We’re going to give him [52 million] on what he thinks he’s going to be for the next six-seven years.” That’s ultimately the shift in the National Hockey League. I think the Leafs are fine with short term deals on these guys and saying, “well, show us you’re going to be a long term piece here.”