Leafs Roster Preview – Jonathan Bernier

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You’ve been introduced to the young guns, now it’s time for the
big boys. Everyday, from now until the season opener, you’ll get to know your
favourite Leafs just a little bit better thanks to the beautiful people at
TLN. 

The first Leaf on the docket is arguably the most
important Leaf: goaltender Jonathan Bernier. 

That’s funny to say in hindsight, because a large section of
Leafs fans were adamant the Leafs didn’t need him, period. The Leafs
already had a great young goalie; one that took them to the playoffs
for the first time in nine years. Considering James Reimer’s play during
the lockout-shortened season, acquiring Bernier seemed unnecessary
compared to other (still) pressing needs.

But the Leafs defensive ineptitude quickly proved
that in order to even get a sniff of the playoffs, they would need Bernier and every single ounce of elite goaltending they could get out of him. And even that wasn’t
enough for a historically deficient team.

Last
Season

It’s no stretch to say that Bernier was the MVP last
season. Kessel was fantastic, but without Bernier this team would’ve been
embarrassed every night (more so than they already were, that is). Just
how low would this team have fallen last year without him? Here’s some
math that’ll give you another reason to thank god you’re not from Winnipeg.

Save Percentage

Goals Allowed

Standings Points Lost

Jonathan Bernier

0.923

138

0

Average Goalie

0.912

157

6

Ondrej Pavelec’s career

0.906

168

10

Vesa Toskala’s last Leaf season

0.874

225

29

The big take away from this chart is that if Bernier turned out
to be an average goalie last season, the Leafs would’ve had a lottery pick at
last year’s draft. 

Luckily he wasn’t just average. Bernier was stellar in stopping
more than 92 percent of the shots he faced and giving the Leafs a chance to win games they had no business winning. What’s more is that he was
consistently good. He had an above average save percentage in 35 of his 55
games played, giving the Leafs a decent chance to win in about 65
percent of the games he was in. In 20 of those games, Bernier posted a .940
or better which is seriously impressive.

The problem was in the workload. With it being Bernier’s first
full season as a starter there was concern over whether he could
handle a full starter’s share of games. That and the sheer volume of rubber he
had to face game in and game out likely made it a tough first season. While Bernier
gave the Leafs a good chance to win in 65 percent of his starts, the
Leafs didn’t return the favour. In 37 of his starts, Bernier had to face 30 or
more shots against and in 13 of those games he faced 40 or more. Fun
fact about those games? Bernier was 8-3-2, which is absolutely insane.

Here’s a look at how Bernier fared throughout the season in ten
game intervals. 

Screen Shot 2014-09-13 at 10.12.11 PM

As you probably remember, Bernier started the season red-hot,
ultimately being handed the starting job no matter what he
did
 winning the starting job from Reimer. For the most part he was
extremely consistent and extremely reliable, playing well above average for all
but a few instances throughout the season (something that happens with all
goalies really).

After his first season, it’s not at all difficult to see why
Leafs management was enamoured by him. He stops pucks, and he looks good doing it.
Bernier is an eye-test dreamboat. 

While it’s usually not wise to gamble on goaltending (it’s
voodoo!), Bernier looks every bit the real deal so far. With Bernier, it looks
like the Leafs have hopefully found their future Price, Rask or Lundqvist: an
elite goalie they can build the franchise around.

This
Season

Hold on, not so fast there, Mr. Optimism. Franchise goalie? Real
deal? I mean, yeah he looks great stopping pucks. Calm, cool and collect. But
do we really know that Bernier belongs in that upper echelon of
goaltending? We don’t. And that’s the problem with
currently projecting goalies, it’s difficult with the data available. 

There’s a decent chance that Bernier is a very good goalie.
There’s also a chance that he’s actually below average, fooling
everyone with a bout of random variance. Remember, goalies are voodoo.
There’s a reason most goalie careers look like yo-yos from season to
season. It’s why every year you wonder what happened to
whats-his-face and why he had an off-year, or wonder where the hell
Semyon Varlamov and Ben Bishop came from. It’s the nature of the position.

In order to properly judge a goalie, you need to see him face a
lot of shots. So far, Bernier has faced 2692 shots at even-strength in his
career. Sounds like enough shots? It’s not. Knowing he’s faced that many shots
and that he stopped them at a .926 clip, we can say with
95 percent certainty
 that Bernier’s true talent falls between
.916 and .932, which is a sizeable gap. Below average, elite, or somewhere in the middle, we won’t know
what the Leafs truly have with Bernier until he faces probably twice
as many shots.

It’s Bernier’s relative inexperience in the league that has some
doubting whether he can repeat last year’s sparkling performance. And if
Bernier regresses like some fear he might, this team is likely
doomed (unless of course Reimer has a bounce-back campaign which isn’t all
that unlikely). This season will be the ultimate test on
whether Bernier is for real or not. What will put him in the upper tier of
goalies — the Lundqvists, the Rasks — is season-to-season consistency.
That’s what separates the elite from the decent, consistent high level
performance. That’s the next step for Bernier, and with his pedigree and tools,
he is fully capable to taking that leap.

Fantasy
Value

Bernier is the Leafs starting goalie, and considering the
most important goalie stat in most pools is wins, his fantasy outlook isn’t
too hot. He had 26 wins last year, good for 16th in the league. On top of that
he only had one shutout, and it’s unlikely he improves on that this year considering the team in front of him. He
also won’t start as many games as some of the other goalies thanks to
having a formidable back-up in Reimer. Unless your pool counts saves or shots
against, Bernier probably shouldn’t be the first goalie you take at your draft,
but he’s definitely a solid second choice.

Highlights

Lastly, to get you excited for the hockey season, we chose the
best moments each player had to offer from last season.

For Jonathan Bernier it was this moment right here where he
became an instant fan-favourite, embodying what the organization values
most in its goaltenders: truculence, testosterone and pugnacity. 


While he may not make flashy saves like former Leafs legend
Jonas Gustavsson (mostly because he’s usually in position) Bernier can come
clutch with some big-time stops. Ok sure, this one may be against an
Edmonton Oiler, and sure it wasn’t even one of the good ones, but it was in the
final few minutes and it saved the game, so that’s something?


  • CMpuck

    Nonis hit a home run on this deal, selling high on Frattin if only he sold high on Reimer early last season, Nylander and Yakupov would look good alongside Kadri.

  • STAN

    There are few goaltenders who stay square to the puck and ON THEIR FEET better than Bernier. His positioning is top notch. He also seems to thrive on lots of shots per game.

    The irony is if the Leafs succeed in cutting down shots against (and I think that’s doubtful this season), Bernier might lose the edge he seems to have with 40-shots+ games.

    On the other hand, fewer shots might keep him fresh enough to play 60-65 games.

    We shall see.

  • Benjamin

    OH CRAP another year of having to listen to all the jaw dropping over Bernier….The guy hasn’t proved anything wake up and smell the coffee already…
    You Leaf Fans are so desparate for your team to be the all great team the play off team the standley cup contenders that you grab n to anything that has an inkling of doing it for you…
    Funny wasn’t to long when you all rode Reimer as the hero and the savouir of this team, saw how that went sour awful fast….

    Well Bernier is in for a run of his life because he;s got reimer nipping at his heels and a whole leafs organization riding on him to be the great goalie they pay to bring in…guess what?? surprise he in’t all that …wait and see again he’s proven nothing…

    • Benjamin

      Bernier has proven himself as much as both Bishop and Schneider had and have when they got there recognition and contracts. Don’t get me wrong I’m a Reimer fan, thought Carlyle set him up to fail and set Bernier up to succeed as far as which games each was played in.

      You are wrong, Bernier is extremely talented, he was drafted in the first round for a reason, every team likes him for a reason, Ron Hextall made it clear he was moved strictly because he was an obvious NHL starter stuck in a backup role behind Quick, an obviously superior goalie to most of the league. The leafs may or may not do well this year, that is yet to be seen, but the fact remains Bernier and Reimer are both good goalies, to say otherwise of either is blatant stupidity and display of your utter lack of hockey knowledge

      • Benjamin

        Again Bernier has proven nothing, he’sproven only that he couldn’t handle a full Starter position, was not prepared to take the job on..remember he never played more than a 25 game season, he also played for a much better team, which didn;t have him facing the shots he did onany given night..I mean L A Kings is a far better team to be a goalie for compared to the Leafs..even Bernier stated he’s never face 3 injuries in one season as he did this one with the Leafs…as for hockey knowledge I know evough to not base anything on what other state or don;t state…and I can see with my own eyes as to his so called greatness…and I don’t see because he hasn’t showed me anything that gives him that #1 advangtage….And Reims was doom to failure from day one, he was never going to be the Leafs starter, they made it look like that, that it was his jib to loose, but that was aksi bullcrap from day one..Bernier never deserved the job in only one season, he was handed it….

        Reimer is and will be a starter for a better team than the leafs, and your guy Bernier will have to face him on the other side…even Nonis stated he was going to let a starter goalie like reimer go for nothing when they would have to go up against him down the road……….Reimer has always come from behind when no one really paid him much mind he cam into the forfront and earned his osistion, only to have it handed off to a back up goalie that isn’t a far better goalie, a mature veteran goalie but a young guy just like himself with simalair numbers,,,,,,,,,

        It was a waste of money and it wab=sn;t needed….they needed to fix the team in front of Reims not him….the D sucks and the forwards aren;t much better…..Bernier I wish him luck he will need it..