Welcome to the Burgundy Debate Club! We’ve again tasked a pair of our staff writers to present why, and then why won’t, a certain Avalanche player might find success this coming season. In this episode, StephHouse makes the case for and AceODale makes the case against Mr Jonathan Bernier. Take it away, Steph
Jonathan Bernier is in a position that should seriously benefit both him and the Colorado Avalanche.
Best case scenario for the Avalanche, Semyon Varlamov tears it up and Bernier isn’t needed very frequently. He is able to stay rested and his fairly-stable career save percentage of .915 is plenty to keep the team afloat. Bernier’s recent numbers are tanked pretty severely by his .908 two years ago, behind the intentionally, incomprehensibly untalented Toronto Maple Leafs team that then drafted Auston Matthews. Excluding that disaster year, he has put up a roughly even GSAA dating back to 2012, indicating he was a net neutral impact on his teams’ Goals Against. That’s exactly what you want in a backup: a stable goaltender who will keep your team in games and not hurt you.
Or, even in the worst non-catastrophe case, if Varlamov is bad or injured, Bernier has shown he can have a passable season with a starter’s workload too, putting up .922 and .912 save percentages between 2013-15. Even platooning last season with Anaheim, he posted a .915 save percentage.
Last year, goaltending affected the Avalanche results on the PK horribly too. They were second-worst at PK save percentage, with the dearly departed Calvin Pickard personally third-worst with a disadvantage (100 mins minimum). Jonathan Bernier excelled there with Anaheim last season, posting a save percentage of .896, which was in the top 10 using the same TOI criteria. That’s a little above normal for him, but generally he is in the middle of the pack for the league, a far cry from Pickard’s .830. Special teams don’t have a huge impact on results across full seasons, but a bad penalty kill will absolutely tank you, as we saw frequently last year.
The Avs had a big hole at the goaltending position. Varlamov has been struggling and needs a backup who can potentially fill in for a long period of time given his injury history, and they lost the backup they had to expansion (not that he was performing well with a starting workload). Jonathan Bernier can easily be that goaltender. And if worst comes to worst? He’s probably not gonna win you a Cup, but he isn’t an incapable starter either.
And now for the contra position, Ace you have the floor
George McFee, General Manager of the newly minted Vegas Gilded Knights, admitted that he was picking one of Colorado’s goalies regardless of which one the team chose to protect. Since the Avalanche tagged Semyon Varlamov, the Knights took Calvin Pickard and traded him for a 6th round draft pick to Toronto.
Now the Avs desperately needed a decent backup for the surgically repaired Varlamov. Enter free agent Jonathon Bernier having just entered the market after playing for the Anaheim Ducks. During the 2016-17 season, Bernier backed-up Jon Gibson for a respectable save percentage of .915, goals against average of 2.5, and a couple of shut-outs over the course of 39 games.
And that is the epitome of Jonathon Bernier: professional back-up with reasonable numbers. His career S% of .915 plunks right at average for an NHL goalie. Bernier’s 2.65 GAA sits a little on the low side of the middle and he’s lost slightly more games than he’s won (110-124).
As a long-term alternative, Bernier has never been a viable option. Toronto tried and ended up platoon him with James Reimer. Eventually, Reimer was named starter and Bernier again found himself in the familiar backup role. For the 2017-18 season, the Avalanche will depend on Varly’s bionic hips to get through at least two-thirds of the 82 game season. Bernier is a decent reliever, but his career does not indicate that he can take over the starter role and save a season.
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Thanks, gents. What say you, dear reader? Will Jon Bernier hold the fort as needed or will he be once again asked to do too much?