Jonathan Bernier assigned to Marlies on Conditioning Stint

The Toronto Maple Leafs’ goaltending controversy has hit a shocking twist, as their highest paid goaltender, Jonathan Bernier, is being sent to the American Hockey League on a conditioning stint.


Bernier did not participate in today’s practice, situating himself in his own room while waiting for James Reimer, Garret Sparks, and the rest of the team to finish. It was a weird situation that caused a lot of confusion as it all unfolded but now makes more sense with Bernier technically being off of the roster.

Conditioning typically last as long as fourteen days, which would allow Bernier to participate in as many as six games with the Marlies. However, if the initially reported ten-day timeline is correct, only three of those land in the window; all of them occurring this weekend. The Marlies head to Rochester on Friday night, before playing a pair of home games against the Manitoba Moose on Saturday and Sunday. The Sunday game will be played in the Air Canada Centre, potentially allowing Bernier to regain his mojo in his own building.

The assignment will be Bernier’s first appearance in the AHL since suiting up for the Manchester Monarchs in the 2009/10 playoffs. Bernier has a 0.922 SV% in 134 AHL regular season and playoff games.

Here’s what the NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement has to say about conditioning stints:

13.8 Conditioning Loan. Unless a Player consents, he shall not be Loaned on a Conditioning Loan to a minor league club. Such Conditioning Loan shall not extend for more than fourteen (14) consecutive days. The Commissioner may take whatever steps he deems necessary toinvestigate the circumstances under which a Player is Loaned on a Conditioning Loan. 

If the Commissioner has reason to believe or determines that the Club has used the Conditioning Loan to evade Waivers, or otherwise Circumvent any provision of this Agreement, he may take such disciplinary action against the Club, as he deems appropriate. The Player shall continue, during the period of such Conditioning Loan, to receive the same Paragraph 1 NHL Salary, and be entitled to the same benefits, that he would have received had he continued to play with the Club.

In a case like Bernier’s, he would have to mutually agree to the transaction, which he presumably has. The last Leafs goaltender to be sent down on a conditioning assignment was Jonas Gustavsson, who played five games with the team in 2010/11 in two different stretches in February 2011 as he recovered from his heart ablation mini-surgeries he underwent to correct his irregular heartbeat. In those games, Gustavsson went 3-1-1 and had a 0.955 save percentage.

Bernier heads down with ambitions to do the same performance-wise. Unless something is being hidden from the public, the 27-year-old’s struggles aren’t due to health. We’re not sure what they are, really; it could be teams figuring out his technique, a psychological block of confidence, or something completely different. 

Whatever the case, this week and a half has the potential to turn around Bernier’s season. Rather than sitting off to the side, feeling anguish over his struggles while watching two goalies play ahead of him on a road trip, he can return home, dedicate the entire time to refocusing his game, and get in some lower-level action to put test himself along the way. It’s not a stretch to say that he needs it; through nine appearances this year, Bernier has a 0-8-0 record and 0.888 SV%, both the worst of his career. 

He could also play a positive role on Marlies goaltender and fellow French-Canadian Antoine Bibeau, who with a 0.869 SV% through ten games, is going through struggles of his own. If Bernier is truly committed to himself over the stretch, it may inspire Bibeau to hit his own personal reset button. Neither has a guaranteed chance at rebounding quickly, but with them both being near the worst in their leagues statistically thus far, there isn’t much to lose and a heck of a lot to gain.

Besides, no matter who you want to see succeed, it’s hard to hope for somebody to fail. Especially when they still have a year and a half left on a two-year, $8.3 million contract.

Sparks and the Leafs will take on the Jets tonight while Reimer will suit up against Minnesota tomorrow. Bernier’s first game with the Marlies could come as early as Friday.

  • Javid

    To me Bernier has a poor attitude and it’s why he’s struggling. His whole attitude during this stretch has been bad. He’s making excuses for it instead of trying to work harder in practice. To me this is his last chance. If he doesn’t change he’s gone. I hope he rebounds but I think that Ship has sailed. But we shall see.

    • Harold Ballard

      I don’t think you could be further off base with theassessment of his attitude. In what instances have you noticed Beriner having a bad attitude? Not harping, just curious. I think it shows remarkable character for him to swallow his pride and go get his game straight. I hope he improves. I think he’s a phenomenal goaltender and can be a star. He plays the position very soundly and confidently when he’s on. I like Reime, but man his flailing around is gonna give me a jammer one day.

      • TGT23

        His attitude like the comments he made about the Rangers game where he let in a goal from Center ice and the game winner being really bad. His response to that “Well It’s Not Like It was Game 7 Of The Playoffs” Like he acts like it was no big deal that he lost the team the game because he didn’t do his job to stop those 2 stoppable PucksPucks which were really awful Goals.

  • Gary Empey

    I’m surprised they haven’t sent him down through waivers. If Mike Babcock is a man of his word then there should be no place on this team for guys who are not ‘good people’ and Bernier’s dig at Reimer after he lost us yet another game (it’s not like it was game 7′) the last time he was in net should definitely qualify. I say trade him for another struggling back up and a 7th round pick and, if nobody’s biting, waive him, and if no one picks him up healthy scratch him for 2 years until his contract runs out. An example should be made so that others don’t think it’s ok to put down your teammates, especially if you’ve been given every chance imaginable and still suck.

  • Javid

    I was against the Bernier trade since day one and he’s never been able to win me over.

    With that said he’s still a Leafs asset that was overpaid for. I’m hoping he can at least regain something in the AHL, then maybe win one NHL game and finally get traded. With the goalie market as bad as it is one more contract space and any pick is fine.

    I’d just love for this team to run with Reimer and Sparks. Two goalies that the Leafs drafted playing well? I’d love to witness several seasons of that.

  • Gary Empey

    This move should of happened after he was last injured. Better late than never. It shows we may have a serious lack of depth in the net. Marlies will need a quality goalie to make some noise this season.

  • STAN

    Bernier is just 27 and could be a difference-maker for an NHL team for 5 seasons.

    But it appears it won’t be in Toronto.

    I think one or two solid outings will give him enough confidence to rebound at he NHL level and a be a real asset for the Leafs to trade.

    He should be watching film of his technique two seasons ago. Keep him in the video room for a day a let him rediscover his good habits, including staying on his skates and standing tall.

    It’s as if Reimer and Bernier swapped heads – Reimer used to collapse to the ice far too early and now he’s staying square, while Bernier has gone the other way and it isn’t working.

    The best part? There’s always drama in Leafs land.

    • Gary Empey

      Re- “Bernier is just 27 and could be a difference-maker for an NHL team for 5 seasons.”

      If my aunt had balls she could be my uncle.

      What evidence leads you to that conclusion?
      He has only succeeded as a back-up goalie to Quick in LA.

      • TGT23

        And the two years before this as the Leafs starter where he was statistically above league average…

        I mean, I understand people have short memories but come on…

        • Gary Empey

          The leafs never made even the playoffs during that that 2 years you speak of. Did you forget ?

          “statistically above league average”…. does not translate into difference-maker for an NHL team for 5 seasons.