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.