Jonathan Bernier Sent to the AHL


For Jonathan Bernier, the start of this season has been an absolute nightmare. Bernier, who came into the season as the Leafs number one goaltender has yet to record a win going 0-8 in 9 games. As a result, he finds himself playing for the next 10 days in the AHL as a member of the Toronto Marlies.

The Maple Leafs announced today that they had sent their goaltender down to the AHL on a 10-day conditioning stint.

After signing a two-year contract extension in the offseason with the incentive for more money if he proved his worth, Bernier hasn’t shown the Leafs what he was hoping to show them. His struggles have been well documented, seeing him without a win in 9 games posting a sub par 3.28 GAA and an .888 save percentage. Without a regulation NHL win since March 3rd, Bernier has twice lost his starters job this season. The never-ending James Reimer vs. Jonathan Bernier saga in Toronto continued this season as Reimer  stole away the starters job with very strong goaltending. It looked like Reimer was about to skate away with the job until the injury bug once again popped up and sidelined the smiling netminder.

However, the plot has thickened in the goaltending controversy in the Leafs crease as Bernier has now been beaten out by Garret Sparks. Sparks was recalled to initially back-up Bernier during Reimer’s injury, but earned himself a start against the Edmonton Oilers. after a poor game from Bernier. In his NHL debut he posted a shutout and earned high praise from head coach Mike Babcock who expressed interest in keeping three goaltenders even when all are healthy.

Mike Babcock hasn’t sugar-coated his feelings on Bernier’s play and it was fairly evident that he was willing to run with Reimer once he returned from injury. Bernier wasn’t about to see a lot of the crease in the next little while, which is why sending him to the AHL is the perfect move. He’ll get an opportunity to play in at least four games and hopefully get the winning feeling back as he backstops a very solid Marlies team. For Bernier, he hasn’t won a game since last April. For goaltenders a winning mojo is everything and right now Bernier doesn’t have that, but he could easily find that in the AHL.

The good news is that Bernier seems to be heading down to the AHL for his conditioning stint with the right mindset. The team needed him to agree upon the move and he obviously did and when talking to the media following the news has accepted all blame.

"“I’m doing this to myself. I’m not playing well and that’s on me. It’s not on anybody else. I was not going to play soon here so I think it’s good to go back down and try to find my game there.”"

This will be Bernier’s first appearance in the AHL since the 2009/10 playoffs as a member of the Manchester Monarchs. He’s had success in the AHL posting a 0.922 SV% in 134 AHL regular season and playoff games.

For the Leafs this is a fantastic way of proactively managing their roster. Having signed Bernier to an extension this offseason they would obviously like to see him succeed between the pipes. His success increases trade value and can also help determine what he would be worth in a long-term deal should the team like to keep him. The next 10 days in the AHL have the potential to turn around and save what has been a disastrous season for Bernier. Instead of allowing him to wallow in his current streak off to the side, the Leafs are giving him a chance to find his game and rediscover the win column. He’s going to see ice and pucks two of the most important things for a goaltenders development.

Bernier will be back in the NHL in ten days. Hopefully he returns a refreshed, focused goaltender with a winning mojo ready to put his struggles behind him and start winning games in the NHL. This could be a great move to save his season, but if he doesn’t rebound from this….