Jonathan Bernier got his first two starts in over a month in the past two games. After the struggles that James Reimer has been going through, head coach Mike Babcock saw a chance for Bernier to get back the starter’s job. Obviously, that didn’t happen.
Against the New York Rangers, Bernier gave up the winning goal with only 1:31 left in the third period. On Saturday, he gave up two quick goals after the Leafs had just taken a 1-0 lead. He then allowed another goal less than a minute into the third period. He was quickly pulled in favor of Reimer after that. It was just the latest problem in a season full of them for Bernier.
He has a record of 6-15-3 with a goals-against average of 3.17 and a save percentage of .895. Both stats are good for the second worst in the league, with only Jonas Hiller of the Calgary Flames having a worse mark in both categories. So Bernier is pretty much having the worst season of his career, to say the least.
Bernier Or Reimer?
This has caused a lot of talk of whether the Leafs will trade him before the NHL Trade Deadline, let alone keep him around for next season. There have been rumors of him being moved to the Flames, but that was much earlier in the season. Now that Kari Ramo is out for the rest of the season, maybe those talks will start up again.
However, could that be a bad idea? We all know that Reimer has by far been the better goalie this season. That means he would get the Leafs a better return in a trade. The added bonus is if the Leafs want to keep Reimer around for the long-term, they can just sign him again in the offseason as he will be an unrestricted free agent.
That would possibly be the best option for the Leafs. Even with Reimer’s injury troubles, he has never truly gotten a chance to be the Maple Leafs starter for a full season. After all, his highest game total is 37, achieved in his rookie season. Even in that year he was sharing the net with Jonas Gustavsson and J.S. Giguere. His first year of not being a 1A or 1B was the 2012-13 lockout shortened season in which he played 33 of the 48 games. If you look at his stats, he’s never had a save percentage below .900 in his six seasons with the club. That’s pretty good, considering how bad the Leafs have been over those years. If the Leafs bring him back next season, the would giving Reimer that chance to finally be that No. 1.
Keeping Bernier around for now though is good for the Leafs’ rebuild. With the Leafs aiming to get the highest draft pick possible, having a sub-par goaltender is a lot of help to that. Bernier is definitely in need of a change of scenery, but that can happen in the offseason. For now, every bad goal he lets in actually furthers the Leafs’ long-term goals. Every loss the Leafs pile up helps them stay below the other teams and get closer to that first overall pick, should the Leafs win the lottery.
It might not be fun to watch, but if the Leafs end up drafting Auston Matthews, wouldn’t it be worth it in the end?