Trading A Lottery Pick For Jonathan Bernier Would Be Insane

Jonathan Willis
March 30 2012 12:07PM

Getting a good goaltender will go a long way toward fixing the confidence problem. It will be difficult because there will be no good free agents and it will probably cost that high first-round pick Leafs fans are expecting but it’s not impossible. Trading that pick for a good young goaltender such as Jonathan Bernier is worth the risk.

That’s David Shoalts, a national columnist for the Globe and Mail, throwing in his two cents on what the Toronto Maple Leafs should do with what increasingly looks like it’s going to be a lottery pick at this year’s NHL Entry Draft.

It’s a bad idea.

The really beautiful thing about Shoalts’ suggestion is that earlier in the article he writes about the Phil Kessel trade, a trade that in Shoalts’ words “dogs [Burke] to this day.” The reason the Kessel trade dogs Burke isn’t because he didn’t get what he thought he was getting – on the contrary, aside from the occasional inability to speak well in front of the press, Phil Kessel’s been the 30-goal scorer he was expected to be each and every year.

(Digression: Thankfully, Cam Charron wrote a nice rebuttal of the ‘Kessel’s milquetoast’ stupidity. There’s a reason scouts don't value 'talking into a microphone' as highly as things like 'hockey sense' and 'skating.'  The reason is that it's irrelevant to winning hockey games.)

Anyway, the reason the Kessel trade continues to dog Burke was because the assets he sent away ended up being quite dear (though nobody knew they would be at the time); the package going the other way included a lottery pick (Tyler Seguin) and a top-10 pick (Dougie Hamilton). Seeing Seguin play in the NHL the way he has immediately has really hurt perceptions if Burke.

That’s because teams get pretty good players with top-five picks. Seguin was one; whoever the Leafs draft this summer will be another. Now, Shoalts proposes sending away that top-five pick to Los Angeles for Jonathan Bernier.

Bernier’s an interesting prospect, one of the best young goaltending hopes in the game. He was an 11th overall pick out of junior and had a pretty nice QMJHL career. He followed that up with a nice rookie pro season in Manchester (AHL) and a better sophomore season. Many expected him to take away the starting job from the lightly-regarded Jonathan Quick in 2010-11.

The funny thing with goalies, though, is that they rarely develop in accordance with the whims of conventional wisdom. Quick, a third-round pick back in 2005 who had been an adequate goalie in the NHL but nothing special, found another gear, posting a 0.918 SV% over 61 games. This year, he’s found a whole new level, posting a 0.930 SV% on the season and making it clear he has no plans to relinquish the starting job any time soon.

That sudden, unexpected leap in Quick’s performance relegated Bernier to the backup position. He’s been pretty good there. Over a 47-game NHL career, the 23-year old has a 0.911 SV%. He’ll probably develop into a starter, but he’s still something of a question mark. As James Reimer could attest, having been a 23-year old goalie with great minor-league numbers and a 0.921 career save percentage in 37 NHL games just last year, those things don’t guarantee a smooth and bump-free ride into a starting job.

Could Bernier be a great pickup for the Leafs? Certainly. Could he be the answer between the pipes? That’s entirely possible. It just doesn’t make any sense to trade away a lottery pick for a guy who, draft pedigree aside, doesn’t look worlds better than James Reimer did one year earlier.

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Jonathan Willis is Managing Editor of the Nation Network. He also currently writes for the Edmonton Journal's Cult of Hockey, Grantland, and Hockey Prospectus. His work has appeared at theScore, ESPN and Puck Daddy. He was previously founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue. Contact him at jonathan (dot) willis (at) live (dot) ca.
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#1 Passive Voice
March 30 2012, 01:14PM
Trash it!
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Clearly it would be. Which is why they need to send the pick to Vancouver instead.

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#2 A. Bates
March 30 2012, 02:04PM
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@Passive Voice

I think you are missing the point there. Trading a lottery pick for goaltending is dangerous, they could be the next Vesa Toskala for all we know.

If a goalie comes in via trade it better be for a proven starter and not some young kid who may or may not be better then James Reimer.

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#3 Danny Gray
March 30 2012, 02:22PM
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I'd question whether it is even worth it to trade a Lottery pick for any goaltender.

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#4 non descript
March 30 2012, 03:45PM
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it will be very interesting to see how burke attempts to clean up the mess he has made.

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#6 RexLibris
April 02 2012, 05:01PM
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"Pinky, are you thinking what I'm thinking?"

When I saw that the Leafs were in the bottom five the first thought that occurred to me was about Burke trading the pick for a young goaltender, either Bernier or Schneider.

It is kind of a Burke thing to do, and given that this is a draft year deep in defencemen and seems to be trending towards a weaker draft at that, it seemed a possible course of action. Not advisable, in my opinion, but I don't think Burke really cares what anyone thinks.

The reports that I have heard and read from Toronto are that, even under new management, there will be intense pressure to accomplish something with this roster next season. This is Burke's collection of truculence, testosterone, pugnaciousness, ill-humour and whatever else the thesaurus has listed under the word "tough". If it fails then it would be the failure of Burke's vision and he cannot, and likely would not, lay this at anyone else's feet. Not even Kevin Lowe.

The most recent rankings would provide appear to provide the Leafs the options of Brendan Gaunce, Jacob Trouba, or Morgan Rielly as possible draft-day choices. Trouba and Gaunce seem like they are custom-built for a Burke draft, one is a USNL product and the other is a big, mean centre with good hands. Seems like if either of them are there at #5 Burke would have an easy time defending either choice.

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