Kings Player Grades, Crowned Royal Style: Jonathan Bernier

Jonathan-Bernier Wine

In this series, we will post a new grade daily for each player that suited up for the Kings in 2010-2011. Since no one here is a credited teacher or NHL scout, we will rate players in the way we are most qualified: by comparing them to the alcoholic beverage that best represents their play on the ice.
Your Los Angeles Kings: leading cause of alcoholism among Southern California hockey fans since 1967.

Jonathan Bernier – Clos Saint Jean, Deus Ex Machina, 2006 

“The wine is backward, powerful, full-bodied, and more of a long-term proposition than the four other cuvees. It possesses massive concentration and depth as well as extraordinary balance, freshness, and laser-like focus”
-Robert Parker

Of course, most any wine enthusiast wouldn’t purchase this fine wine with the intention of drinking it right away. Not that it wouldn’t be enjoyable, but storing wines made from the finest grapes for several years produce the best and most complex wines.

Jonathan Bernier was drafted in the first round of 2006 to be the Kings franchise goaltender of the future. Now, five seasons have come and gone and Bernier has yet to see extensive time as the starter in Los Angeles. Before this season he had only appeared in 7 NHL games. He added another 25 this year serving as Jonathan Quick’s reliable backup.

This season he looked good in just about every game he was in, if not great at times, posting three shutouts in just 22 starts. He did, however, have a couple of blips on the radar and gave up 5 or more goals in three starts as well. Certainly, growing pains are too be expected for young goalies, which is why the Kings have eased their investment into NHL action.

His talent is clearly superb, as his side-to-side movements are as smooth as anyone’s, and his quickness and agility are top notch. But in comparing his mechanics and tenacity to that of Jonathan Quick’s, he still has some work to do to become the all-star caliber NHL starter he has been sold to be.

Next year may figure to be the time to finally open this bottle of potential for regular drinking, but with Quick in place in Los Angeles, this leaves some questions:

  • Will Bernier remain in the cellar, starting 20-30 games next season?
  • Will the Kings instead let them split time as a tandem?
  • Or will Bernier be traded to another organization that doesn’t have the goaltending depth that the Kings have?

One of the first two seems to be the most likely, but that last one is intriguing. Remember, the Kings also have Martin Jones in the system, who in 39 AHL games posted a 23-12-1 record with 4 shutouts, a .924 save percentage and 2.25 GAA.

The Kings have been patient with Bernier, so trading him would not be their first choice. But at this point, Jonathan Quick seems to be more of a sure thing, if only because Bernier hasn’t yet had the opportunity to see what he can do as a full season starter. But if Quick keeps improving at the rate he has with his work-ethic, there is no viable future in sight for Bernier in Los Angeles.

That said, the time might be now to trade him, as his stock his still high, he is still young, and his contract is still very affordable. There are certainly teams that could use some help between the pipes:

  • Have you watched Brian Boucher this postseason? It looks like he is the punchline to a bad joke, or the first act of a hockey version of a Bad News Bears movie.
  • Who knows how much longer guys like Brodeur and Roloson have left in the tank?
  • Columbus has already gotten rid of one goalie who flopped after a terrific rookie season, and there were rumors this season that suggested Steve Mason might be following the same path.
  • If the Phoenix Coyotes franchise lose Ilya Bryzgalov to free agency, are they really going to stick with Jason LaBarbera as their starter? We know how that story ends.

It will be interesting to see what happens with Jonathan Bernier. Thus far, every decision the Kings have made with him has been a good one. The cynical Kings fan is no doubt expecting the Kings to make one bad one at some point.

Here’s hoping this investment pays off in some manner for the Kings and doesn’t turn in the bottle.

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