Jonathan Bernier to Maple Leafs: Breaking Down Toronto's Goalie Controversy

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Jonathan Bernier to Maple Leafs: Breaking Down Toronto's Goalie Controversy
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The acquisition of Jonathan Bernier is sure to heat things up in Leafs Nation this summer.

Just as the dust had settled on all the Roberto Luongo rumors and Toronto Maple Leafs fans were accepting James Reimer as their starting goaltender, enter Jonathan Bernier.

After the potential dealing of Bernier being moved to the Leafs surfaced, Maple Leafs fans let out a collective groan, bracing themselves for yet another goalie controversy in hockey's premier market.

Sure enough, that talk became reality on June 23. As the Los Angeles Kings announced on their team website, the team and the Toronto Maple Leafs agreed to terms on a trade that will see the 24-year-old Bernier join the Blue and White, while the Kings will bring in Matt Frattin, Ben Scrivens and a second-round draft choice in either 2014 or 2015.

Bernier's move to Toronto is sure to spark another round of conversation on whether James Reimer should be the Leafs' starting netminder from here on out among Toronto's sports media.

Make no mistake, Dave Nonis wouldn't trade for a pending restricted free agent if he didn't intend to give him a shot at the starting job. Bernier has been waiting to sign a deal as a starter for years. If he feels he doesn't have a chance to do so in Toronto, he most likely wouldn't sign a new deal with the Leafs, thus making the trade a massive waste for Toronto.

Clearly, Nonis is anxious to get him signed.

Here's a breakdown of Toronto's newest goalie controversy.

 

James Reimer

Abelimages/Getty Images
James Reimer once again finds himself embroiled in a goalie controversy in Toronto.

Drafted by the Maple Leafs in the fourth round (99th overall) in the 2006 NHL entry draft, James Reimer was never really considered a top-tier goaltending prospect.

Having never played in the postseason during his junior hockey career, and having very average numbers throughout his career with the Red Deer Rebels, Reimer was always going to be a project.

Yet in 41 AHL games between the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons, Reimer turned heads, performing at a high level for the Toronto Marlies and stopping over 92 percent of the shots he faced.

That led to a call-up and some playing time with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

From that point forward, Reimer has managed to post some very impressive numbers. Setting aside his shaky return from a concussion last year, Reimer's been an above-average netminder his entire NHL career.

His advantage over Bernier is the fact that he's been a starter for quite some time and has been part of two playoff races and one postseason.

Even with a shaky defense in front of him, Reimer has managed to put together an impressive resume over the course of his young career.

His glove hand and rebound control, however, continue to be problems, and if he doesn't shore those up before the start of next season, he may open the door for Jonathan Bernier to steal his job.

 

Jonathan Bernier

The former Los Angeles Kings backup goalie has a story that is just about the antithesis to Reimer's.

Always lauded as one of the best young goaltenders out there, Bernier was part of Canada's 2008 World Junior Hockey Championship's roster and ended up being selected 11th overall in the 2006 NHL entry draft (88 spots ahead of Reimer).

Unfortunately for Jonathan Bernier, his career has never really had the chance to take off, as he's been stuck behind Jonathan Quick in Los Angeles for years.

The advantage Bernier has on James Reimer comes in his natural ability.

With very few holes in his game and a track record of success everywhere he's played, Bernier certainly has the talent to be a starter for a NHL team.

In order for him to steal the starting job from Reimer, though, Bernier will need to demonstrate a few things.

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For starters, he needs to show that he is a better goalie than Reimer, with fewer weaknesses for opponents to expose during training camp and the preseason.

Secondly, he needs to convince Toronto's coaching staff that he's capable of posting the same incredible numbers he has been as a backup in Los Angeles over the course of a full season, where he may have to start 55 or 60 games.

 

Conclusion

As of right now, it's probably safe to say that James Reimer has the edge over Bernier to be Toronto's opening-night starter.

Bernier will, however, be given the opportunity to claim that starting job, and there is no doubt that the possibility of him opening the season in net for the Buds is by no means a long shot.

A few slip-ups from Reimer in camp and during the preseason, coupled with solid play from Bernier, could very well lead to Randy Carlyle and his staff electing to make Bernier the start to kick off the new campaign.

One thing's for sure: This summer has just become a whole lot more interesting in Leafs Nation.

 

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