The much-maligned Jonathan Bernier got his first win of the season – his first win since 05 April of this year – last night against the Los Angeles Kings. Yes, it had to come sometime and yes, the Kings were at the end of a lengthy road trip but hey, a victory – and a shutout victory, at that – against one of the top teams in the NHL is definitely something to be proud of. Bernier is fresh off a conditioning stint in the American Hockey League. Since returning to the Leafs, he has had one poor game, one adequate game and, most recently, a great game against his former team, including an outstanding pad stop on sniper Marian Gaborik.
However, there is still a lot of work to be done.
Bernier hasn’t had an easy run in Toronto. In fact, the story of his entire career seems to be one of struggle and setbacks.
At the 2008 World Juniors, Bernier was selected as one of the goalies for Canada’s entry, splitting duties throughout the Preliminary Round with Steve Mason. Despite having the tougher draw, Bernier, with a 44-save shutout over the Czechs and a 4-3 loss to Sweden, was passed over in favour of the 2-0 Mason, who faced only 38 shots combined over two games against Slovakia and Denmark, stopping 37 of them. Despite Mason’s shaky play in Canada’s QuarterFinal win over Finland, Bernier was again passed over for the SemiFinal. Mason won that game, too, before leading Canada to the gold medal over Team Sweden. Despite his team’s success, Bernier was vocal in his displeasure, both during and after the tournament, at having not been given the same opportunities as Mason. Mason was, admittedly, the better puckhandling goaltender of the two, which Canada’s coaches might have felt would benefit them on the international-sized ice surface – the 2008 tournament was played in the Czech Republic. Or, perhaps Bernier’s loss against Mason’s perfect record made all the difference. Who knows. Whatever the case, Bernier did not endear himself to the hockey community with his unhelpful, albeit understandable, attitude towards the situation.
Drafted by Los Angeles, Bernier was set up to take over the Kings’ goaltending throne, before being usurped by another prospect, Jonathan Quick. After the Kings won the 2012 Stanley Cup, a trade request Bernier had originally made before that season’s trade deadline was made public. Despite the championship, Bernier still wanted to go somewhere to be closer to home and, crucially, somewhere where he could be a starter. Again, understandable, given that 2012 Conn Smythe winner Quick had firmly entrenched himself as the starter in LA. But again, more evidence that Bernier is, perhaps, a bit of a difficult personality.
On to Toronto where, in 2013-14, Bernier turned in a spectacular season of work in propping up a marginally competitive Maple Leafs team, winning 26 games and posting a .922 Save Percentage. Reality came crashing down when Bernier was injured and James Reimer could not maintain the bailing out of the Leafs’ perpetually sinking boat. And though 2014-15 was a miserable year all around for the Maple Leafs – Bernier included, he still managed a middling .912 Save Percentage. However, the fact remains that Bernier has never had success over a significant enough period of time for him to warrant consideration as an elite National Hockey League goaltender – and perhaps not long enough to even be considered a bona fide starter (rather than a good 1A or 1B option). And yet, Bernier still remains supremely self-confident, bordering on abrasively so, at times.
It is this self-confidence, and perhaps not an inherently difficult personality, that I contend is Bernier’s biggest strength – AND his biggest weakness. He has the calm, collected demeanour of Carey Price, rarely appearing rattled. However, much like Price early in his career, this zen model of goaltending has gotten Bernier into trouble. Coolness and calm are fine when things are going well but, when they are not, they lend themselves to accusations of uncaring and apathy. Countless players have been labelled as “lazy” or having a “bad attitude” because of their relaxed demeanour on the ice. As mentioned, Carey Price. Frank Mahovlich, anyone? How about Jaromir Jagr?
Bernier’s on-ice behaviour has not helped this perception. His cool, calm manner seems to be central to his playing style, often at the expense of focus and intensity. Certainly, bad goals go in on every goalie. But not at the frequency with which they go in on Bernier. I believe that much of the problem lies with his overly composed, casual nature in the net. How about the goal against the Carolina Hurricanes from a couple of years back? Or pre-Leafs Michael Grabner’s shorthanded tally? Of course, this article would not be complete without Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s legendary snipe. And, from this season, check out Derek Stepan’s entry.
Those goals were absolute stinkers, to be sure. But even goals that were not inexplicably awful illustrate my point: the first goal of the 2014-15 season Bernier allowed went in because his pad was not flush with the ice. A weak shot, right along the ice, from a horrible angle: definitely preventable. Or this one, also from last year: he has to seal that post; that just cannot go in. Or, how about this one: I understand standing up for a high shot but it is pretty clear that this one needed to be a butterfly save. Even he stopped it, where was that rebound going?
You get the point. To be sure, there are worse goaltenders than Jonathan Bernier in the NHL. And I am equally sure that I could scrounge up enough lowlights to make a pretty decent blooper reel for any National Hockey League ‘tender. However, Leafs fans know a thing or two about questionable goaltending. And no goaltender has made them do this more than Jonathan Bernier. Say what you will about James Reimer and his technique, no one ever questions his intensity and compete level. Bernier probably has more raw talent than Reimer. However, in terms of putting it all together on the ice and, ultimately, producing results? Reimer’s got him beat, hands-down.
The main bullet point of the presentation? Bernier gives up a lot of soft goals, and often looks as though he is not even trying. The cool, calm, collected manner he endeavours to project is often a detriment to his game, making him appear casual and apathetic. His self-confidence in himself and the way he plays might be grating on the teams on which he plays, and is definitely so on the fans he plays for. This last point is especially pertinent given that Leafs Nation is used to the self-deprecating, “Aww, shucks”, widely-recognised-all-around-good-guy attitude of tandem compadre, James Reimer.
I do not believe for a second that Jonathan Bernier does not try, or that he is in any way apathetic towards his team. I also do not believe he is the goalie he has shown himself to be in the past couple of years. However, to get out of this funk he is in, he needs to channel his zen into focus and his self-confidence into intensity. I believe that Jonathan Bernier should be a starting goaltender in the National Hockey League – and a darn good one, at that. It is up to him to find that consistency that has eluded him so far in his career. Being cool, calm and collected is only helpful until it isn’t. But, look at Carey Price: once one finds that balance between composure and focus, the sky is the limit.
All illustrations by Andrew M. Greenstein, The unofficial NHL Uniform Database
…except the last one. That one is from Chris Creamer’s SportsLogos.net
The Boston Bruins have had a weird few months. Come to think of it, they’ve had a pretty strange history. Every time they have a run of success and seemed poised to become a bona fide dynasty…circumstances occur to ensure that dream falls just a little bit short. Bobby Orr might well be the greatest player in National Hockey League history. However, injuries limited him to just 631 games – spread over ten seasons, in a Bruins uniform. Though they did win the Stanley Cup in 1970 and 1972, they were vastly overshadowed throughout the 1970s by the dynastic Montréal Canadiens. The Bruins also iced very good teams throughout the 1980s and early 1990s – making the Playoffs every year. But, they lost out each time, including four years in a row to the Canadiens – 1984 to 1987 – and twice, in the Stanley Cup Final, to the Edmonton Oilers – 1988 and 1990, the latter sans Wayne Gretzky. However, they managed to fleece the Vancouver Canucks for Cam Neely…and then watch his career be slowed and, ultimately, truncated by injury.
The early 2000s saw a resurgence…followed by the lopsided trading of superstar captain Joe Thornton for his lack of production during the 2004 Playoffs – a broken rib isn’t a good excuse, apparently. Oh but it’s okay, they were bad enough to garner the 5th Overall Pick in 2006, using it to select Phil Kessel…a budding superstar who they then proceeded to trade in 2009. Oh but it’s okay, they rebounded and, in June of 2011, got themselves a Stanley Cup! But then their starting goaltender went crazy and they traded away budding superstar Tyler Seguin for being 21 years old. Oh but it’s okay, they made the Cup Final again in 2013, so everything’s fine for the future! But let’s trade away budding superstar Dougie Hamilton, just to be safe. Might as well get rid of prototypical Bruin Milan Lucic, too. Oh but it’s okay, now we have 3 First Round picks in 2015! It’s not like they’ll ALL fail their physicals, right?! …guys?
What an interesting, interesting organisation.
Their uniform history has been up and down, as well. Check out the mid-century versions below, with the striping that can’t make up its mind. The stripes on the jerseys are bad enough, but the socks look as though they let a 2 year-old have at the colour palette as if it were a game of Whac-A-Mole. Did they blow the entire design budget on three completely different jerseys, forcing them to make one pair of socks for the lot? Were they simply trying to distract everyone from whatever was going on with the tail striping? And since when are yellow pants ever a good idea?
And, of course, everyone fondly recalls the 1990s, when the Bruins decided, “Hey, you know that awesome, Spoked-B logo we have? Let’s change it to Winnie The Pooh!”
But hey, for a team with nearly a century of history behind it, one has to grant them a few duds. Thankfully, the current iteration isn’t too shabby.
Mercifully, the Bruins did not give into peer pressure with the advent of the Reebok Edge Uniform System and institute vertical striping under the arms. A simple three-stripe, two-colour combination graces the sleeves and tails of the home and away jerseys, with a lovely, two-tone shoulder yoke. The combination of these elements is gritty enough to satisfy the stereotypical, working-class image of Boston, while being artistically balanced enough to appease the eggheads in the surrounding suburbs. And the Spoked-B logo is, quite simply, one of the best of all time. Combine this with a simple helmet, pant and sock, and the Bruins have a real winner on their hands. Sort of.
My only real beef is with the secondary logo. It draws inspiration from Boston’s very first emblem and, truth be told, is really not bad-looking thing at all. However, its presence on the shoulders of the Bruins’ home and away uniforms, breaks up what I like most about them: blockiness and simplicity. It just looks out of place. If the yokes were not there, the secondary logo would look less intrusive (though the jersey itself might be ruined), but the easiest solution would be to just get rid of it altogether. I would even be fine with it on a third jersey…
…where it, surprise surprise, looks great! Actually, it is the best part of the third jersey. Where are the tail stripes? It looks like a practice uniform. And why do away with the lace-up collar? The thick, yellow one makes it look like the cheap, off-brand knock-off jerseys one finds at Canadian Tire or Walmart. This third jersey was clearly concocted for the purpose of making money. It is boring and cheap-looking, like it was designed on the back of a napkin at a breakfast joint by someone who forgot about the project until 23 minutes before it was due.
But hey, they got a spot in the 2016 Winter Classic! Against Les Habitants, no less! And I hear they are going to go with a retro-themed kit! Finally, a suitable canvas for their alternate logo!
-___- …you had one job.
Okay, so it’s not awful. I love the sweater-like collar. The striping is good. The big numbers that teams like to use for outdoor games have been made to look passable in this iteration – not an easy feat. And I especially like how, in going retro, these jerseys still retain the Bruins’ current black backdrop – brown is a tough colour to make work with any apparel, let alone that of a sports franchise.
But…that logo… Come on. Seriously? It was wonky the first time, what with the big “B” and “N” flanking a much tinier “OSTO”. Why would you reuse it? And why, oh why, would you keep it brown?! Just use the alternate logo you already have! Or what about your 2010 Winter Classic jersey (see below), how about some variation of that?
Oh wait, you blew that one, too! The fantastic yellow and black colour scheme is “complimented” by a brown logo outline and a cartoon, Comic Sans-esque “B”.
A team with this much history and that kind of passionate fanbase deserves a uniform kit to match. Stop screwin’ around and make this right.
But please, feel free to keep on trading all of the players you draft in the First Round – that’s just good, wholesome entertainment for everyone.