Jonathan Bernier, the Kings' 2006 first-round draft pick, has been called up on emergency status. He has just been given the nod over regular back-up Erik Ersberg to start between the pipes against Dallas tonight, according to lakingsinsider.com.
Bernier has been nothing short of stellar this year with the Manchester Monarchs, the Kings' AHL affiliate.
In 49 games, Bernier has a 26-18-5 record with eight shutouts, a 2.08 goals against average and a .937 save percentage. To put that in perspective, he would be leading the NHL in every goaltending category but wins with those numbers.
Of course, the NHL is quite different from the AHL, just ask Teddy Purcell.
But Bernier was a first-round draft pick and a starter for the Canadian Junior International Team—two distinctions that usually equate to a solid NHL goaltender at worst, and a superstar at best.
Since being drafted, Bernier represented the future to the Los Angeles Kings' fans.
More so than Anze Kopitar, Thomas Hickey or Drew Doughty.
This is because the Kings haven't really had what could be considered a "franchise" netminder since Rogie Vachon's last season in LA in 1978. In fact, most players since then have been terrible.
Some might wonder about Kelly Hrudey, who was more popular for having a flashy style, that while entertaining, was not always effective. A quick glance at his career numbers, and one might think, "Oh, that's right, they had Wayne Gretzky."
The term "franchise" refers to a goalie that can carry a team by keeping them in games every night, and even steal some games when they have trouble scoring.
Quick has certainly shown that budding characteristic this season. He has been not only one of the most consistent Kings goalies ever, but one of the most consistent netminders in the NHL.
Because of this, the name Jonathan Bernier has been somewhat forgotten this year in Los Angeles.
Forgotten, until now.
The report from practice this morning is that Bernier was the first to leave the ice, which is typically an indication that he will be the starter tonight.
This is very exciting news that Bernier has been given the go tonight, but it is unfortunate for Erik Ersberg.
Ersberg has been a loyal backup to Quick all season. He has only seen action in EIGHT games and only started six. Quick has been one of the busiest workhorses in the NHL.
Ersberg has been solid when he has seen time, with a couple exceptions. But he was able to play through a 5-4 OT victory in San Jose—no easy task.
Ersberg deserves the start, but at the same time, his future in Los Angeles is solidified: he will never be more than a backup.
So why not give Bernier a shot to see what he can do?
Should he become what LA fans always hoped he could, the Kings would have a very interesting situation on their hands with he and Quick. One of them would surely be traded and would probably bring a nice return.
The question is, which Jonathan would the Kings trade? The highly-touted Bernier or the out-of-nowhere workhorse Quick, who has been instrumental in the Kings' success this season.
This is no doubt a problem, but it is perhaps the best problem an NHL team could have.
Perhaps it could be similar to the situation in San Jose when they had both Evgeni Nabokov and Miikka Kiprusoff in their system at the same time.
An interesting coincidence: Dean Lombardi, current Los Angeles Kings GM, was their GM at the time, though he did not draft either player.
No one could definitively say whether he did the right thing in trading Kiprusoff and sticking with Nabokov, or that he should have done the reverse; both have had great success with their respective teams (Kiprusoff now plays for the Calgary Flames), but neither have won a Stanley Cup.
Is it foolishly optimistic to compare the Quick and Bernier situation to Nabakov and Kiprusoff?
Optimistic? Yes. Foolish? No.
Tune in tonight to see what Bernier is capable of this season.
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